Texas A&M University at Qatar and Maersk Oil Qatar have launched a strategic initiative to excite young Qataris about studying mathematics and science to prepare them for careers in Qatar’s knowledge-based economy.

The Young Engineers and Scientists programme, sponsored by Maersk Oil Qatar, targets Qatari students in grades 5 and 6 and provides enrichment programmes through which students learn about science while solving engineering design challenges, said Dr Hamid Parsaei, director of academic outreach at Texas A&M at Qatar. Parsaei said:

Research indicates that we must begin working with students at younger ages to stimulate their interest in science, math and engineering. Through our partnership with Maersk Oil Qatar, we are engaging some of our best faculty and lab staff to reach out to young Qataris in an effort to spark their curiosity.’

According to Parsaei, a trial of the programme in November 2014 was successful, and teachers reported that their students enjoyed and learned from the experiments they conducted. In March, Texas A&M at Qatar hosted more than 130 Qatari students from nine schools across Qatar, and additional programmes scheduled for the next two months will bring the total to more than 400 Qatari students.

According to Sheikh Faisal bin Fahad Al Thani, deputy managing director of Maersk Oil Qatar, the company recognises the significance of nurturing and developing interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are known as STEM disciplines. Sheikh Faisal said:

Through initiatives such as this, we are working to attract and inspire the next generation to follow a technical educational track that can lead to successful and rewarding careers in industries like oil and gas. And this programme’s unique format means that the students gain experience in a broad range of engineering disciplines in a fun and practical way, helping them to develop new knowledge and skills that will inspire a lifetime’s passion for the sciences.’

The one-day programmes were organised and led by Dr Mazen Saghir, associate professor of electrical engineering, and Benjamin Cieslinski, science laboratory manager. Students worked on two experiments on magnets and solar heating. Saghir said:

We were delighted to host students from Qatar’s elementary schools, especially those who joined us from schools outside Doha. The students showed a great capacity to learn new material quickly. Investing in STEM education at such a young age will ensure that Qatar will be well prepared to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.’

According to Parsaei, the Young Engineers and Scientists programme will help put young Qataris on educational pathways for science, technology, engineering and math, and that will enhance future efforts to develop those students. He said:

Our partnership with Maersk Oil Qatar provides comprehensive outreach efforts for Qatari students from grade 5 through university. We are working together to pursue human development that will provide valuable expertise for Qatar’s growth and prosperity.’

Texas A&M University, recognised as having one of the premier engineering programme’s in the world, has offered undergraduate degrees in chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering at Qatar Foundation’s Education City campus since 2003, and graduate degrees in chemical engineering since fall 2011. More than 500 engineers have graduated from Texas A&M at Qatar since 2007. In addition to engineering courses, Texas A&M at Qatar provides classes in science, mathematics, liberal arts and the humanities. All four of the engineering programmes offered at Texas A&M at Qatar are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET