The first and second batches of Emirati interns who visited Nasa’s Ames Research Centre in California conducted research alongside scientists. They are (back row from left) Hamad Rajab, Abdul Rahman Kalbat, Faisal Al Haira, Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Khalid Al Ali, (front row from left) Khalifa Al Gafli, Khalifa Al Marzouqi, and Shamma Al Qasim. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Dubai: As the UAE calls for more research, skilled science graduates and a focus on technology, five Emirati engineering graduates who recently interned at Nasa are a fine example of how science careers can be exciting and rewarding.

Khalifa Al Marzouqi, Khalifa Al Gafli, Faisal Al Haira, Khalid Al Ali and Abdullah Al Qubaisi spent the past three-and-a-half months at Nasa's Ames Research Centre in California conducting research alongside scientists there.

The students joined various teams that were looking into solutions to problems with wind turbines in aircrafts, green building technology, nanosatellites using cell phone technology and the recycling of grey water.

A feat for the UAE

Nasa does not usually take on international students as interns and completing the programme — now in its second year — is a feat for the UAE. The graduates were able to pursue their internships because of an agreement with the US space agency and the Arab Youth Venture Foundation (AYVF), a non-profit organisation founded in 2007 to develop the next generation of researchers, scientists, engineers, leaders and entrepreneurs.

AYVF chief executive Lisa LaBonte said, "As we move into year two of our Nasa internships, all of the mission work undertaken by our UAE interns at Nasa will have direct applicability to research and development occurring in the UAE."

"This level of relevance and the collaborative opportunities this provides is of great benefit to all and further strengthens USA-UAE cooperation in areas of science and technology transfer," she added.

Solving problems

Abu Dhabi Men's College aviation engineering graduate Al Marzouqi, 25, worked on problems with the structure of wind turbines to produce energy. He is an engineer with Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies.

"The problem is that they vibrate and over time it affects the structure of the wind turbine. We tried to figure out what kinds of winds are good to capture wind energy and conducted simulations to find that out."

Al Marzouqi's role was to help with designs and analyse data. He said similar wind turbines could be successful in Masdar City, for example.

Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority engineer Al Gafli worked on integrating advanced technologies in a green building that Nasa is close to completing.

The organisation aims to get it certified as a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) building, which is no easy task as it needs to have zero carbon emissions, grey water recycling, and special ventilation, among other factors Al Gafli said.

"My job was to monitor and project plug load metering — the whole point was to monitor energy consumption and reduce the carbon footprint per employee."

He used software to monitor the amount of energy people consumed at their work stations and tried to minimise it by changing their habits and implementing simple measures. "I managed to reduce the carbon footprint by 35 per cent over two weeks. I started the project three months ago and I think we've done a great job."