10/2/2012 9:56:57 AM
By Tanya Alexander
Pillar of progress
It’s no surprise Qatar has reached the status of richest country on the globe. With its vast oil reserves discovered in the 1930s and with the world’s third largest natural gas reserves, this Persian Gulf emirate has become a major player in world’s petrochemical market.
Just last year, Qatar took its place at the top of the CIA’s World Factbook list of wealthiest nations, with an estimated gross domestic product of $102,700 per capita, and a population expected to reach nearly 2 million this year.
What may not be widely known is the meticulous planning that has structured the growth of the country in its social development and environmental management. For the Al-Thani royal family, rulers of Qatar, their strong and well-defined National Vision 2030 plan aims to manage its massive urban development, population growth and economic status by investing in its people. The foundation of this plan is education.
“Education is one of the basic pillars of social progress. To meet the challenge, Qatar is establishing advanced educational and health systems, as well as increasing the effective participation of Qataris in the labor force,” states the vision document. “Qatar aims to build a modern world class educational system that provides students with a first-rate education, comparable to that offered anywhere in the world.”
And Canada has the expertise to share. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada is the most educated country in the world. Some 50 per cent of the adult population has completed post-secondary education, the highest rate in the OECD.
Qatar recognized Canada’s prowess in that field more than 10 years ago when it chose College of the North Atlantic, Newfoundland and Labrador’s public college, to build and administrate its first comprehensive college of technology. Since then, College of the North Atlantic-Qatar (CNA-Q) has risen to the top of the educational crop in the Middle East, helping the country make educational history and create a new future for its people. The institution has hosted world-class conferences, forged precedent-setting international program accreditations, built an outstanding applied research reputation and have students and graduates receiving global recognition for their work.
Going Green in the desert
After winning the prestigious Qatar Foundation Research Excellence Award in December for their project Green Home: Designing and Fabricating Occupancy Sensors, CNA-Q student Addullah Kayyali said he and his research partner Manir Al-Faisal owe a great deal to their institution of study.
“We have friends in other universities who are doing engineering research, but I think we have an advantage over them because we are a technical institution,” says Abdullah. “It’s been a treasure. We would be working and suddenly realize we needed a specific piece of equipment. Then we realized we do have it – in a lab next door or down the hall.”
The two Electrical Engineering Technology students’ project on green home automation was one of nearly 400 submissions from other institutions in Qatar (including Qatar University) and only one of 20 chosen for oral presentations. And it has been recognized more than once.
“The Green Home initiative,” says CNA-Q President Ken MacLeod, “which has won top awards for student researchers for the past two years, is a prime example of the quality applied research opportunities available to faculty and students at CNA-Q. This marks the second time in less than a year that students working with Engineering Technology instructor Ovaise Murtuza have won awards.”
Murtaza’s Green Home Sustainable Energy and Home Automation research project has facets beyond the home energy monitoring and automation sensors created by his award-winning students. Since applying for a research grant from the Qatar Foundation in 2008 to study energy efficiency for a typical villa in Qatar, Murtuza has identified that the placement of air conditioners and the usage of LED lights, along with automated aspects of everyday living, will cut down on costs in a substantial way.
“Everything is subtle so you can’t see it at first… but we’ve been monitoring how much energy is used and the cost associated. We’ve measured daily, weekly, monthly and so on, and it appears we’re saving 40 per cent of the cost.”
And this is just the beginning; Murtuza and his students are working on measuring water usage for showers and devising clever ways to reuse water, such as output for gardens. And he has his eye on the big picture.
“We’re hoping for funding for the next phase – to create a green villa from scratch. That’s the dream.”
Murtuza has used his automation research for other projects, such as intuitive traffic lights that sense when vehicles are approaching and react accordingly.
“This will essentially rid us of traffic jams and allow a steady flow; no more waiting at a red light with nothing moving,” says Murtuza.
New technologies such as these are allowing CNA-Q to help with another pillar of Qatar’s vision – protecting the environment. Qatar wants to find “… a balance between development needs and protecting the environment [and play] a proactive and significant international role in assessing the impact of climate change and mitigating its negative impacts.”
In keeping with that, and always an institution to move forward, CNA-Q is establishing a lab at the campus dedicated to advanced environmental and energy research and plans to join forces with external research partners in future developments.
“With 2.8 per cent of Qatar’s burgeoning GDP earmarked for research,” says MacLeod, “CNA-Q can be a conduit to one of the most generous publically funded research funds on the planet, where ‘no good idea goes unfunded.’”
Given that Forbes’ recent listing of the 10 Best Countries for Business places Canada at the top, this collaboration couldn’t be more promising. The generous distribution of wealth, knowledge and labour is creating a wave of forward momentum from shore to shore and raising the bar for a robust economic and sustainable future for both nations.
Public Relations Specialist, Qatar Project
College of the North Atlantic