QF partners Texas A&M at Qatar and Carnegie Mellon Qatar teach advanced robotics to Qatar STEM school students
Originally published in Peninsula, April 29, 2021
For the past seven months, Qatar Foundation partner universities Texas A&M University at Qatar and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) led an advanced robotics course for high school students in the Qatar Science and Technology Secondary School (QSTSS) under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
The course proposal was developed by the STEM experts Dr. Mohamed Gharib from Texas A&M at Qatar and it was approved by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Then, the course was taught by Dr. Mohamed Gharib, and Nour Tabet, the STEM program coordinator, from CMU-Q. The multiversity team customized the course, which was based on the VEX Robotics World Championship, after Texas A&M at Qatar was selected to organize the first VEX Robotics Competition in Qatar. Despite the difficulties that COVID-19 has caused globally, the team prepared a unique learning experience through a combination of in-person and online lectures to guide the school’s students and teachers as they learned the structural components and programming of the VEX Robotics kits.
The goal of the course was to equip students and teachers with new skills that will enable them to tackle technical and design challenges while learning programming. Developing students’ problem-solving skills along with computational thinking is crucial for Qatar’s National Vision in unlocking human potential through investing in education, Gharib said. The way the course was designed also encouraged students to use their creativity, teamwork and leadership to devise solutions to given engineering challenges.
The course began in September 2020 and wrapped up in spring 2021 with the Qatar 2021 VEX Robotics Competition. Thirteen teams participated in qualifying, semi-final and final matches in an alliance format (two teams per alliance). REC Foundation, the robotics education and competition foundation, set the guidelines for the winners of the regional competition in Qatar based on the number of matches, scores for each team, and robot designs.
Abdullah Al-haddad and Yousef Ibrahim received the Excellence Award, the highest award presented in the VEX Robotics competition, for exemplifying overall excellence in building a high-quality robotics program. Tournament champions — the two-team alliance that won the final game in the tournament — are Mousa Al-muatwa, Abdullah Al-najdi, Abdullah Al-nasr, Rashid Alsubaie, and Fahad Al-kuwari.
Sultan Albader, a QSTSS student who also qualified for the Qatar team that will compete in the world championship, said, “The VEX competition was one of the most unique experiences for me. This contest helped me to develop myself as it strengthened in me the spirit of cooperation and opposition at the same time, as well as teamwork and determination to complete the work. Although I did not win all the rounds, I enjoyed very much participating in this competition and being part of this achievement.”
Dr. Rani Altoum, QSTSS Vice Principal, said, “The VEX robotics course was a great addition to our STEM-focused curriculum as it provided an exemplary model for the transdisciplinary integration between the four STEM disciplines. Throughout the course and the subsequent completion, our students had a great learning journey and demonstrated many 21st Century skills including collaboration, communication, creativity, problem solving and critical thinking.”
Establishing the VEX Robotics Competition in Qatar means that the participating competitors get to work on hands-on engineering projects to create their own robotics designs and get a taste of what engineering in the real world looks like, said Dr. César Octavio Malavé, dean of Texas A&M at Qatar.
“At Texas A&M at Qatar,” Malavé said, “we know how important it is to bring engineering to life to inspire Qatar’s young innovators and inventors. I’m proud of these students who have been so immersed in robotics and I hope we see them as students at Texas A&M at Qatar in the future.”
Dr. Michael Trick, dean of CMU-Q, noted that the Education City multiversity is perfectly equipped to inspire young computer scientists and engineers: “Today, careers in STEM fields involve interdisciplinary teamwork, and this will continue to be the case. In Education City, we bring together expertise from two extraordinary institutions so these young people can experience the feeling of accomplishment and inspiration that comes with intellectual collaboration.”
VEX Robotics is part of Innovation First International, a leader in educational and competitive robotics products that provides educational robotics kits and challenges for students of all ages. Texas A&M at Qatar was selected by REC foundation to be the official event partner in Qatar. Texas A&M at Qatar and CMU-Q will work together to organize the local competition.