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Texas A&M at Qatar program encourages school students to innovate solutions for water security challenges

Published Jan 22, 2019

Thirty students in grades 9 through 12 from schools across Qatar brought their inner inventors to life during the weeklong Qatar Invents engineering camp designed to evoke innovative solutions to real-world challenges in Qatar.

Qatar Invents was presented by Texas A&M at Qatar and sponsored by Occidental Petroleum of Qatar Ltd. (Oxy Qatar). Occidental has joined the branch campus’s strategic educational outreach efforts that aim to motivate young Qataris to choose educational pathways for careers in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The initiative supports both teachers and students through a broad portfolio of programs and workshops. 

Qatar Invents, an intensive engineering invention and design experience, engaged students in hands-on projects that accelerated their innovation, creativity and communication skills. Participants learned the fundamentals of the engineering design process: determining problems, defining challenges, brainstorming ideas, building prototypes and experimenting ideas.

This year, eight teams were challenged to solve problems related to water security, one of Qatar’s Grand Challenges. The students were assigned with designing a new technology to be used at home, office or school to either conserve water to minimize wasted water, reuse wastewater to further its value or to repurpose public water sources to increase usage. At the end of the week, the students acted as entrepreneurs presenting their inventions to engineers and technology experts. 

The program was designed to motivate students in science and engineering while teaching skills essential to becoming leaders in engineering and innovation.

Participant Abdullah Kabalaki said he applied to the program due to his interest in studying engineering and Qatar Invents enabled him to learn about the design process and the different phases that products go through. He also learned more about collaborating with others to create a project and present an “elevator pitch” for a product, and he said he recommended this program as it facilitated students to learn more about engineering. 

Mohammed Usrof, another participant, said this year’s program was useful to him and has taught him many skills that he needed in his life as a student. He has learned to plan ahead and brainstorm with effectiveness and efficiency. Now, he said he feels he can do basic sketching techniques and look at matters from a different perspective. This experience has taught him technical skills and even social skills in that he excelled in making new some new friends during the program. “I would most definitely return back and go through the amazing experience if I had the chance,” he said 

For Alexander Greene, Qatar Invents gave him the tools and skills to create and market a product. “It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We were given a problem with the need for a solution and we were able to develop and create a product that does just that.” Greene also said it was fun to see and work with different people from different schools across Qatar. 

Mr. Andrew H. Kershaw, President and General Manager of Oxy Qatar, said, “Getting more young people interested in science and technology is paramount not only to our industry, but helps Qatar maintain its technological edge in the global marketplace. Oxy Qatar strives to be a Partner of Choice everywhere we operate by investing time and resources in programs that strengthen local communities.” 

Some of the inventors have previously participated in Texas A&M at Qatar’s STEM programs, including Sara Al-Baker. This year’s Qatar Invents is the fifth program that she has participated in at Texas A&M at Qatar. She said she enjoyed the program as it allowed her to expand her knowledge in engineering, gain experience through teamwork and use innovative methods to create a prototype.

“I encourage all girls to join these programs as it prepares the students for university,” Al-Baker said.

Dr. César Octavio Malavé, dean of Texas A&M at Qatar, said outreach programs such as Qatar Invents help young students understand the importance of engineering in Qatar.

“Engineering touches every part of our lives and engineers have helped propel Qatar to be a world leader in energy,” Malavé said. “Out STEM programs, including Qatar Invents, demonstrate to students how engineers can help solve problems we face every day. Each of these student inventors participating in this camp has the potential to be a future innovation leader in Qatar and help drive Qatar towards its ambitious goals, as set forth in Qatar National Vision 2030. I hope they have learnt a lot, and I hope they choose to pursue careers in engineering.”