Texas A&M at Qatar STEM programme teaches QAST students underwater robotics

via The Peninsula

The Peninsula

Doha: Students from Qatar Academy for Science and Technology (QAST) learned about the science and technologies behind ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) over five weeks as part of the Engineering Heroes: Ocean Scout academic enrichment programme delivered by Texas A&M University at Qatar. 

The innovative Engineering Heroes STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) outreach programme focused on the science and technology of underwater vehicles, which are used in several industries and real-life applications such as search and rescue, inspecting underwater pipelines or exploring shipwrecks. 

ROVs allow for ocean exploration and are controlled by someone typically on a surface vessel. Cables connect the ROV to the ship and send information between the ship and ROV, which is usually equipped with cameras and lights to transmit images and even video back to the ship. Depending on the purpose of the work, ROVs may also contain equipment such a cutting arm, water samplers and other instruments that may measure water temperature or clarity. 

Ahmad Al-Mannai, a grade 9 student, said, “We learned how to be precise in our sketches and design. We learned to work in a team, and our plan is to make a simple ROV that is able to move underwater and get things.”

The Engineering Heroes: Ocean Scout programme was developed and delivered by STEM expert Dr Mohamed Gharib from Texas A&M at Qatar’s Office of Engagement. In order to expand knowledge within Qatar’s youth and drive them to choose pathways to careers in STEM, the new workshop equips the students and teachers with new skills that will enable them to tackle technical and design challenges while learning about ROVs. 

Noor Al-Maadeed, another grade 9 student, said, “We learned new techniques to build a ROV and rotate it. We faced many challenges and failed, but we had good teamwork and we changed the sketch again and again. I was really interested in working with an engineer from Texas A&M and it was really impressive to collaborate with this university.”

Dr. Gregory Moncada, QAST director, said, “Engineering Heroes is an excellent introduction to underwater ROVs, basic electronic circuitry and engineering design. We are delighted to have Texas A&M at Qatar lead our students in this program. Qatar’s relationship to the sea reaches deeply into the history and heritage of its people. Creating a vehicle that can investigate the marine habitat, conduct research and challenge our students to imagine the many possibilities that such a project creates, is exciting and helps our students solve marine-based problems that face Qatar and the world. Our students love it!”

Gharib said the aim is to develop students’ problem-solving skills and computational thinking that is crucial for Qatar to achieve its National Vision of building human capacity by investing in education. Additionally, the program encourages students to use their creativity, teamwork and leadership to come up with solutions to the challenge given, which is the very heart of engineering.

The outcome of the course will enable students to participate in the Qatar 2021 SeaPerch Challenge. The international SeaPerch Challenge is part of RoboNation, a leader in educational and competitive underwater robotics products that provides educational robotics kits and challenges for students of different ages. Texas A&M at Qatar was selected by RoboNation to be the official host for the SeaPerch Challenge in Qatar based on the proposal submitted by Gharib, who is a member of the SeaPerch Regional Advisory Committee. As a result, a team from Qatar will participate annually in the International SeaPerch Challenge starting in 2021. The 2021 competition will be conducted virtually. 

Texas A&M at Qatar dean Dr. César Octavio Malavé said STEM programs such as Engineering Heroes offer students in Qatar a glimpse into how engineers work every day to address challenges around the world. 

“At Texas A&M at Qatar, we are educating the next generation of engineering leaders in Qatar,” Malavé said. “We must begin attracting Qatar’s best and brightest young students to engineering at a young age, and programs like Engineering Heroes are a fun and innovative way to introduce science and engineering concepts to young students. We’re proud to be able to share our expertise with students in the Qatar Academy for Science and Technology as we work together to toward this shared vision of building human capacity in STEM in Qatar.”

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