IDEAS 2019: headlining the next generation of creators and innovators

​​​​Jennifer Muller, Office of Communications, communications@aub.edu.lb 

The flagship spring event for the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture​ (MSFEA), IDEAS 2019 proved a stimulating and inspiring showcase of innovation and creative endeavors, highlighting the richness and diversity of engineering, architecture, and design at AUB.  

Throughout the two-day forum, which took place on April 17 and 18, 2019, students and professors were invited to take part in an array of modules that celebrate the achievements of alumni, the endeavors of students, and the results of research conducted at MSFEA.  From the diversity of topics tackled in the three-minute talk module, to the creativity of the business ideas that were presented during the startups module, this event strove to showcase the potential of engineering, architecture, and graphic design to make a real difference in our world and help shape the future.    

The first day of IDEAS 2019 began with a celebration of distinguished alumni and their achievements in the fields of engineering and architecture, with a refreshing mix of established graduates showing the heights one can reach, and young alumni who are just beginning to show great promise.  Students then took center stage, competing for the Dean's Creative Achievement Awards.  Three nominated teams from each department presented their final year projects (FYP) to an interdisciplinary jury and winners were announced during the final event at the end of the second day. 

Research was a primary focus of both days of IDEAS 2019, with undergraduate and graduate students presenting their work in the form of posters, oral presentations, and in short three-minute talks where students were challenged to describe their work so that it would be accessible to a general audience. This opportunity to showcase their work proved very popular with students as it gave some of them their first hands-on experience of presenting research. They also profited from getting feedback on their work from notable experts in their respective fields coming from academia and the professional world. 

​Although not directly related to the IDEAS conference, the first day culminated with the much-anticipated annual Big Game, which sees MSFEA students take on a team of students from all the other faculties in a rousing game of football. 

The Maker Faire—billed as a “celebration of the tinkerer within"—was an exciting feature of the second day, with students showing their inventiveness and artistry, adding in a bit of fun to the process.  From the development of a bicycle-powered blender to the modernization of rollercoasters through smaller-scale models, this module packed a punch in showcasing the unfettered creativity of students. Faculty members also got into the action on the second day with a chance to share their research in a series of short, thought-provoking talks on fascinating topics such as “Can a cat ride a skateboard?"

Finishing out the second day's program was the Startups Demo Day module, which saw student groups pitch their innovative ideas and compete for a total of $50,000 in prize money. First prize went to Tree-D, a drone system that utilizes machine learning and a shooting mechanism to detect and deliver chemical treatments for parasites to preserve the trees (Yahya El Ali, Youssef Al Jrab, and Ali Shibli). The first place team took home a whopping $30,000 to bring their startup idea to the next level.  

Coming in second place was PCMT, a construction management system that relies on drones and software to optimize the management and resource utilization in megaprojects (Saad Chris Cheiban, Joanne Marie Naccache, John Karam, and Joey Nseir), winning $15,000.  And in third place was Achghali, a platform matching persons and businesses with short-term task doers, taking $5,000 (Marc Ibrahim and Farah El Rohayem). 

After an exciting and constructive two days, participants were treated to an awards ceremony and party in the big tent that was set up for IDEAS 2019 next to Bechtel.  This is the second year of IDEAS, which grew out of the FEA Student and Alumni Conferences that were held annually between 2002 and 2017. This event was reimagined to make it more engaging and more inspiring for all involved.