Volume 20 | issue nº 4 2019

Trailblazing Engineers Showcase their Work

By Raissa Batakji

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LEW’19 celebrates young engineers and showcases their latest work.

In what has become a School of Engineering (SOE) tradition, one highlight of the spring semester was the fourth annual LAU Engineering Week (LEW ’19).

From lectures on data science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to medical informatics and the results of a collaboration with the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine, the week of events drew industry experts, faculty, students, alumni and public figures.

At the opening event SOE Interim Dean Raymond Ghajar lauded the synergy between the school’s students and their mentors, saying that he hoped it will lead to “yet more groundbreaking achievements” at the school.

The academic importance of non-classroom events such as LEW ’19 cannot be overestimated, said Interim Assistant Dean Joe Tekli. “Engineering education is not only about coursework or lab work, but also about engaging with others: successful engineers, distinguished alumni, experts from the industry and professional leaders.”

Such exchanges, he added, “are what our graduates will most likely remember from LAU after graduating, and we are working hard to make sure they have the best of such memories at the SOE.”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has long captivated SOE students and graduates, many of whom went on to specialize in or research solutions that could be realized with AI. Some came back to campus to speak about their work on Pioneers’ Day of LEW ’19.

Thanks to an agreement between LAU and BMW, cohorts of engineering students have been interning at the Bavarian giant’s headquarters in Munich every year. Two current interns, computer engineering students Clara Akiki and Joseph Attieh connected live from Germany to present a joint project in which they used AI neural networks to identify handwritten letters.

As part of his internship, Attieh also mentioned another assignment he was working on, “helping the After-Sales Department at BMW Group derive sentiments from feedback we’ve received from customers.” The project, he said, was initiated by a previous group of LAU interns.

Yet another AI-related project is being conducted by award-winning researcher and graduate student Rayana Jaafar that proposes a solution for indoor robot positioning using machine learning. With plans to pursue an academic career in engineering, Jaafar shared valuable advice with students who are considering the same path: “Keep your opportunities open to multiple areas of specialty as it will give you an edge in a competitive market.”

Away from AI but equally innovative, Hussein Basma’s (BE ’16) PhD thesis at Mines ParisTech treats electric mobility in public transportation. The mechanical engineering graduate, who has been collaborating with SOE Associate Professor Charbel Mansour on the research, remarked that “the results of testing electrified vehicles in Lebanon turned out to be better than the already optimistic forecasts.”

Not surprisingly, presentations on Pioneers’ Day seemed to draw inspiration from day-to-day struggles for students and alumni alike.

Civil engineering graduate Michel Khalil (BE ’18), for instance, is determined to relieve traffic on the Nahr El Mot Highway interchange, and a collaboration between alumni Ibrahim Ezzeddine (BE ’16) and Basel Jalaleddine (BE ’16) since their LAU days sprang from the need to teach robotics to school students.

Upon graduation, they devised an online platform that does just that, after securing the funds from an accelerator at Beirut Digital District. Reflecting on their time at LAU, the duo agreed that it was the multiple opportunities for internships along with their passion to “create things” that led to their success.