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Texas A&M at Qatar and Maersk Oil Qatar Host Engineering Explorers STEM Program

Published Feb 25, 2015

Fifty middle school students from local schools participated in the Texas A&M University at Qatar and Maersk Oil Qatar Engineering Explorers Program at the Texas A&M Engineering Building.

The three-day (15-17 Feb.) event was designed to familiarize young students with engineering and the science behind it. The program entailed science activities, hands-on engineering projects and contests to challenge students’ math and science skills.

Dr. Mark H. Weichold, dean and CEO of Texas A&M at Qatar, said, "Texas A&M at Qatar is proud of its work to enrich Qatar's greatest natural resource - its people - and is dedicated to inspire a new generation of engineering leaders. In partnership with Maersk Oil Qatar, we are helping Qatar meet its need for new engineers that will move the country toward its QNV 2030 goals. Through engaging STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] programs such as Engineering Explorers, we work with Qatari students, teachers and schools to encourage math and science interest and show the breadth of engineering careers. This is a part of Texas A&M at Qatar's long-term efforts to light the spark of discovery in Qatar's promising young students."

"STEM development programs teach basic principles of science and engineering, but more importantly they are designed to stimulate students’ interest in pursuing engineering studies," said Dr. Hamid Parsaei, director of academic outreach at Texas A&M at Qatar. “Engineering Explorers is designed to excite Qatari students about science and engineering, and it teaches them that Qatar’s growth and development require talented young people with expertise in engineering and science. We hope to inspire them to develop the skills they will need to help build their country’s future," Parsaei said.

Students learned about science concepts, design, teamwork and creativity through interactive activities conducted in Texas A&M at Qatar’s state-of-the-art labs.

Sheikh Jassim Al-Thani, head of Qatarization at Maersk Oil Qatar, said, “We are pleased to be collaborating with Texas A&M University again on this program. Initiatives like Engineering Explorers attract more young Qataris into the sciences, giving them the technical knowledge and skills that can lead to successful and rewarding careers in industries like oil and gas. And as the operator of Qatar’s largest offshore oilfield for over 20 years, we can offer these vast career prospects - giving candidates the opportunity to work with the latest industry technologies and innovators - while simultaneously supporting local knowledge-transfer, which is central to Qatar’s Nation Vision 2030.”

The first two days of the program focused on a range of engaging activities about science and engineering and involve teamwork to learn design and construction problem solving. These activities and projects aim to develop the students’ analytical thinking and teamwork skills, which will be beneficial as they pursue undergraduate studies and eventually careers in science and engineering.

During the last day of the program, all students participated in a paper rocket contest to enhance their inquiry and intellectual skills. The students worked in groups to design and construct a model rocket. The goal of this activity was to measure the students’ problem solving abilities through trial and error, and to enrich their scientific knowledge.

Throughout the competition, students will be able to explore the different materials available and learn how to apply concepts of science such as momentum, impulse, force and energy.

The program was organized by Dr. Mazen Saghir, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Benjamin Cieslinski, laboratory manager in the science program, with help from the technical lab coordinators from the science and electrical and computer engineering programs.

The first two days consisted of science demonstrations and a range of engaging activities to introduce students to simple statistics, generating electricity from a fruit battery, constructing magic squares and transferring kinetic and potential energy. These activities aim to develop the students’ analytical thinking and teamwork skills, which will be beneficial as they pursue undergraduate studies and eventually careers in science and engineering.

Saghir said, "We were delighted to host students from Qatar's leading middle schools, and we were impressed by their ability to learn quickly, experiment, and take on challenging tasks. Cultivating these traits through STEM education is essential to scientific discovery and to tackling the grand challenges of the 21st century. By investing in STEM education, Qatar is well on its way to a very bright future."

During the last day of the program, all students participated in a paper rocket contest to enhance their inquisitiveness and intellectual skills. The students worked in groups to design and construct a model rocket. The goal of the activity was to develop the students’ problem solving abilities through trial and error and to enrich their scientific knowledge. During the competition, students explored different rocket designs and observed science concepts such as center of mass, center of pressure, force, air resistance and gravity.

In line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, Texas A&M at Qatar continues to host STEM development programs such as Engineering Explorers to help promote engineering as a field of study by inspiring prospective students to contribute to Qatar’s growing economy and its national vision.