Masdar Institute’s YFEL Members Recall a Year of Enrichment and Innovation

September 21, 2018

From learning how to build a robot, to participating in international discussions around one of the most important challenges facing mankind – global climate change – members of Young Future Energy Leaders (YFEL) 2016 program, an outreach initiative of Masdar Institute and Science and Technology — say they have had the privilege and adventure of a lifetime in their year-long experience and cannot wait to apply the lessons they learned to their professional lives.

Each year YFEL chooses the best from its applicant pool of local and international students and young professionals to be part of its year-long immersive mentorship and training experience. These select young men and women are then given rare access to decision-makers and innovators in energy and sustainability while they enrich their understanding of the technical issues through specialized workshops and courses. All of this has one goal in mind – to develop YFEL members’ skills, confidence, and understanding to help them become future leaders in energy and sustainability.

Dr. Lamya N. Fawwaz, Vice-President for Institutional Advancement and Public Affairs, Masdar Institute, said: “The YFEL program inspires, engages and empowers bright young people to become future leaders in the fields of energy and sustainability, in line with the UAE government’s emphasis on youth development. Supporting such programs remains vital for the youth as they help nurture talented innovators. The YFEL members have engaged with global industry and government leaders, actively participated in international conferences, and attended leadership courses to enrich their knowledge. We congratulate this year’s graduates on the completion of their year-long program, and on the leadership skills they have developed through their experiences.”

“The most important thing I learned as a YFEL member is that personal and professional growth will happen when I dare to reach beyond my comfort zone,” shared YFEL 2016 member Saeed Kaddoura, who is also a Masdar Institute MSc student in Water and Environmental Engineering. “The YFEL program placed us in opportunities that challenged the limits of our comfort, and empowered us to succeed beyond them.”

Kaddoura was one of the winners of the YFEL Case Study Competition selected to be part of the UAE delegation to 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), which took place last November in Morocco. COP22 focused on how the strategies laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement of COP21 can be applied. The Agreement is an international treaty within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that covers the mitigation greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to climate change and finance for climate action. Delegates from around the world debated many of the agreement’s sticking points, which gave attending YFEL members insight into how science, policy, and government come together to tackle serious issues.

“At COP22 we were surrounded by the most advanced climate change and policy research. I also had the chance to engage with other young people from around the world through a youth panel titled ‘Shared Responsibility for a Shared Future’, which strengthened my confidence in the role young people will play in helping secure a better future. After my YFEL experience I can’t wait to become an active contributor to international energy and environmental policy,” Kaddoura said.

YFEL members are also gaining valuable experiences right here at home through opportunities to learn from local experts about the forefront of technology, including robotics and initiatives to help bring positive change to important sustainability challenges. This is the case wit YFEL member Abdulaziz Alhammadi, who is an engineer in Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA).

Alhammadi completed the ‘Building a Robot Course’, which taught attendees about the critical technologies that are at the heart of robotic systems, including microcontrollers, sensors, and systems integration. Led by Masdar Institute Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Prashanth Marpu, the course explained the basics of the embedded systems that control a robot, so at the end of the day-long workshop Alhammadi and other participants were able to build and demonstrate their own functioning robots.

The young Emirati engineer says he is looking forward to applying the enhanced technical skills and mindset he acquired during his YFEL experience to his work at the RTA.

“YFEL has helped me to make better decisions in difficult situations, which is going to have a huge impact on my professional and personal development, and enhanced my design approach for street lighting projects to use environmentally-friendly energy-saving lights in my ongoing projects as one small contribution to the UAE’s green economy,” Alhammadi said.

But the most important lesson he says he learned during his YFEL experience was how crucial energy- and water-security are for overall sustainability.

“Going forward, I plan to contribute to the UAE’s visionary targets by focusing on environmental sustainability challenges and green energy resources, and I will employ technology to serve this vision. I want to combine my technical engineering background with the professional training and development I received through YFEL to increase the efficiency of current green energy technology sources such as solar energy systems, which can serve the UAE and wider world both economically and environmentally,” Alhammadi said.

Other times the most valued lessons learned by YFEL members have not been as technical. Nouf Al Ali, who is a strategic analyst associate at Dolphin Energy, cited ‘soft skills’ as being the most important takeaway from her YFEL experience.

“One lesson that will not be easily forgotten is that ‘differences do not usually create conflicts’. To elaborate, YFEL had members from many different educational and professional backgrounds. But instead of this being a source of confusion or difficulty, it created a great knowledge-sharing platform that resulted in greater group productivity, especially in the idea forming stages of our activities, resulting in innovative solutions,” she shared.

Al Ali highlighted the teamwork and leadership skills she developed during her YFEL experience as top among the program outcomes that will benefit her career going forward.

“YFEL helped me develop my interpersonal skills, such as communication and negotiation through debates on the future of energy. It also challenged me to effectively present the thoughts I develop through analysis and problem-solving, so I can be a better future leader,” she added.

Al Ali was one of the winners of the YFEL Case Study Competition, the prize for which was a seven-day YFEL-Japan Joint Government Initiative. She and other awardees experienced workshops, presentations, and immersive learning during their trip. They visited leading Japanese companies like Toyobo Japan and academic institutions including Tokyo University, and met high-level delegates. Al Ali said she in particular enjoyed the visit to Sophia University, where she learned about using treated wastewater for irrigation.

Fellow Case Study Competition winner Tawaddod Saif Alkindi also mentioned the Japanese water workshop as one of the most memorable of her YFEL experiences.

“The Japanese water quality and resources workshop was intense. Now I have good theoretical and practical overview of water resource management, which will help me to think of solutions related to this field,” she shared.

Alkindi, who is currently a Masdar Institute MSc in Materials Science and Engineering student, said that YFEL had inspired her to learn from the successes of others, like Japan’s leading innovators, and to be more open with her own ideas and opinions to help identify challenges to be able to produce the best solutions.

“Challenges are the ultimate motivation that drive me to think and invent. I am grateful to the YFEL program for preparing me to become a leader. The program developed my leadership and critical decision-making skills to enable me to find solutions for sustainability issues,” she shared.

Another YFEL member Hamda Lootah says she was privileged to launch and end her year-long experience with two events that strengthened her belief in her abilities and purpose.

“Our YFEL year started with the 2016 World Future Energy Summit and then later in the year I was selected to be part of the Youth Circle with His Royal Highness Prince Charles. These two events strengthened my self-confidence, which is a key element in being a successful leader, and they have opened the doors to many new opportunities I can seek for my future,” she shared.

The World Future Energy Summit is part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) an annual event dedicated to advancing future energy, energy efficiency and clean technologies, which attracts over 26,000 attendees from 112 countries. The Youth Circle with Prince Charles was organized at Masdar Institute by the Emirates Youth Council. It was also attended by His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar, and Her Excellency Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth.

Lootah, who is studying for her MSc in Sustainable Critical Infrastructure at Masdar Institute, best summed up the lifelong impact of the YFEL experience for herself and her fellow members.

“Our world needs to be sustained and we see that now it is our time to lead that.”

Clarence Micahel
News Writer
26 February 2017