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MIT Practical Experience Program Learning a New Dimension to Applying Clean Energy Technologies

Program Powerful and Transformative, Say Student Participants from Masdar Institute


Abu Dhabi-UAE: 25 July, 2012
– Subjects such as energy conservation, sustainability or renewable sources of energy are nothing new to the students of Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. But the Practical Experience program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Boston, offered the students from Abu Dhabi a totally new dimension to applying their knowledge in clean energy technologies.

Take for example the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – a new tool for energy mapping project that integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. The students from Masdar Institute had an opportunity to work with GIS which allows users to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.

Solving energy crisis was one of the activities that students including Ameirah Al Dhamani worked with her team. The aim was to build a roof for a small-scale house to minimize heat transfer from inside the house to the outdoor environment in cold places. And, they used the GIS tool to display data in an easy and understandable way.

Sara Al Muhairi, Director, Human Resources, Masdar Institute, said: “Such was the depth of the program that the students could gain access to cutting-edge tools and novel concepts at MIT. The program has opened new sources of learning for the students who enthusiastically participated in indoor theory lessons and outdoor experiences. It was a perfect opportunity for the students to contribute to the knowledge drive as directed by the country’s leadership and we are confident the experience will effectively help them to enhance their capabilities for innovation.”

Relevant to her thesis defense on ‘Social entrepreneurship in energy poverty’, Ameirah Al Dhamani benefited from lectures on Energy Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Energy Research in Developing countries, and Women in Energy’ that strengthened her knowledge on the role of social entrepreneurship in the developing countries, and broadened her perspectives on energy innovation.

The Practical Experience at MIT program has positively impacted Al Dhamani and her perspectives. She says: “The program was well-structured and has enriched me with real-life exposure. Every learning moment during the program was so productive. All faculties at MIT were enthusiastic in creating a positive and innovative atmosphere through the interactive discussion and teamwork.”

The modules were complemented by the ‘Urban Energy ‘Ecosystems’ in Practice Excursion’ and a visit to Liquid Metal Battery Corporation (LMBC), a local start-up with roots in MIT, that focused on ‘Energy Innovation and Entrepreneurship’. A boat ride on the historic Boston harbor enabled the students to locate the liquid fuel storage and power generation and calculate the land area used.

An early-stage company, LMBC is working to develop and commercialize a new battery technology that will revolutionize grid-scale power storage. The company’s battery has the potential to be significantly cheaper than existing batteries. By decoupling power supply and demand, the liquid metal battery acts as a major enabler of the widespread use of sustainable energy sources and the development of more efficient power systems.

Nadyah Obaid Salem Al Abdouli, believes the practical experience helped her in mapping the theories that she was studying in the modules and getting an idea about practical challenges.

She says: “Learning visually, through visiting the industrial sites, is different from theoretical lessons. And the combination of both provides a much better understanding of an idea rather than just a theoretical lesson.”

Mostly interested in how beneficial and efficient some simple and cheap tools could be, if used wisely, the course helped Mohamed Almarzooqi in widening his horizons and opening his eyes on looking at things with new perspective. He says: “The theoretical lessons are very important and it gives us about 20%-50% of understanding. But physically looking at the material and operating them by my own hands, further improve the extent of understanding.”

Al Marzouqi was pleased to see that his research work at Masdar Institute is closely related to the course modules at MIT that focused on different ways to save energy, by increasing the efficiency, reducing the amount of the consumed energy or discovering new types of renewable energy sources.

A special session titled ‘Solar Energy: Emerging Technologies and Applications’ offered the students from Masdar Institute an ideal occasion to learn the simplest ways to make organic photovoltaics by constructing a dye-sensitized PV cell. By assessing the implications of using dyes including pomegranate seeds, raspberries, and blackberry for each dye-sensitized cell, the students measured the values for open-circuit voltage and short-circuit current as a function of illumination incident angle using the halogen lamp as a light source.

Naeema Al Nofeli enjoyed the different activities, including competing on the speed of the engine that they built, constructing the simplest organic photovoltaics, and using hotspot, a heat warmer pack, or hot water to generate energy to make the fan work.

Al Nofeli was excited to visit areas in Boston that has energy activities, which they mapped the previous day with the GIS tool. She believes that the activity, will benefit her thesis defense. She says: “Using the mapping program will benefit me for allocating the UAE native plants in Abu Dhabi, and will help us figure out why there are plants more widespread in certain areas than others.”

She adds: “The excursions helped me to think out of the box and realize that making business is not only about financial profit, but about bringing benefits to the society through environment-friendly products.”

The students largely benefited from constant interactions and discussions with the professors, which made the classes lively, attention-grabbing, and thought-provoking. Such knowledge exchange helped to guide the students towards thinking of energy from nearly all perspectives, as topics ranged from engineering to managing energy.

Azza Al Raisi said: “The two weeks practical experience at MIT was ‘one of a kind’ for Masdar Institute students. Different essential energy-related topics were introduced each day in addition to a practical experience that was incorporated to demonstrate what was explained. Although there was time-limit stress for big topics to be introduced daily, the professors made it possible for the students to absorb all the important points related to the topic of the day.”

‘Visualizing Urban Energy Infrastructure’ was one of the lectures that were introduced during the program. The group was divided into four teams of five to six and assigned a project. First, the students were trained within a couple of hours to use a new software program, Quantum GIS, that visualizes, edits, manages, and analyses data on maps. Each group was assigned to prepare a poster that included geospatial dataset on a specific city, which included Abu-Dhabi, UAE; Dubai, UAE; Doha, Qatar; and Kuwait City, Kuwait. An eight-hour time limit was given to the students to find data about the each city and present it on a map through Quantum GIS. The challenge helped to build team-work, stress-management, and time-management skills, and enlightened us about the power and importance of geographical information system in understanding and presenting energy-related data.

Al Raisi added: “Meeting with MIT students and faculty was a great experience in itself. Four graduate students were constantly accompanying us and helping us to make sure that everything is in order. The several dinners we had with MIT students were also an opportunity to get to learn more about their lives, their interests, and the innovative projects. Most importantly, the MIT program has created a strong bond between Masdar Institute students.”

The students concurred on one factor – it was a truly powerful and transformative learning experience. And they are now keen to apply their experience at Masdar Institute.

Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.  With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.
 

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