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A resource for food and education: IEEE SIGHT AUS Chapter launches hydroponic farming on campus

American University of Sharjah (AUS) has launched a sustainable hydroponic farming project that enables students to explore advancements in agricultural technology and benefit from the farm’s nutritious food.

Called Harvesting Hope, the project was initiated by the AUS student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (IEEE SIGHT) in collaboration with The Big Heart Educational Center in Sharjah —an educational institute that offer pro-active educational solutions aimed at empowering underserved students from a cross-section of nationalities in the UAE, by offering a first of a kind program which focuses on illiteracy. 

“The significance of hydroponics lies in the ability to cultivate plants in nutrient-rich water solutions, eliminating the need for soil. The establishment of hydroponic systems on the AUS campus enables workshops that educate students on optimal plant growth practices, covering topics such as system assembly, potential hydrogen testing, light-emitting diode and water pump configurations and nutrient solution management. The resulting produce will serve as both a hands-on learning tool and a source of fresh, nutritious vegetables, enhancing daily meals,” said Sara Walid, a senior mechanical engineering student, Chair of IEEE SIGHT and student project leader.

Having received funding from the IEEE Humanitarian Technologies Best Practices and Projects Committee, the project tracks its progress through regular assessments and engaging Kahoot quizzes, ensuring students at The Big Heart Educational Center grasp and apply the presented concepts effectively.

Harvesting Hope aligns with the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative and is in line with the objectives of the upcoming COP28.

“Hydroponics maximize resource utilization, minimize environmental impact and potentially increase crop yields. This innovative project not only aligns with our commitment to sustainable technology but also holds great significance in the upcoming COP28 UAE Conference. By fostering sustainable farming practices through hydroponics, we are contributing to the UAE’s efforts in addressing pressing environmental challenges and showcasing our nation’s dedication to a greener future,” said Safwan Khan, a senior electrical engineering student and former Chair and current Vice Chair of the IEEE SIGHT AUS Chapter.

The initiative was also driven by AUS students and SIGHT members Rana ElFakharany, Bana Sous and Omar Shaghnoubi, who played a pivotal role in the funding application process.

By bridging the gap between technology and agriculture, the IEEE SIGHT AUS Chapter aims to empower communities to take charge of their food production while reducing the strain on the planet’s resources.

“We are privileged to have set up one of the first IEEE SIGHT student groups in the GCC that furthers the goals of humanitarian causes in the local community,” said Dr. Imran Zualkernan, Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering who also serves as the IEEE SIGHT Chapter advisor and project lead.

AUS continues to pioneer the future of learning and providing students with the skills and mindset needed to drive projects that contribute to a greener and more sustainable future. The IEEE SIGHT Chapter exemplifies AUS’ ongoing efforts to equip its students with the tools to address global challenges and make meaningful contributions to society.

AUS is dedicated to supporting the UAE’s sustainability endeavors through robust initiatives and active faculty engagement. Recognized for its commitment, AUS is a valued member of the Universities Climate Network, uniting UAE-based institutions to foster dialogues, workshops, public events and youth involvement in preparation for COP28. AUS’ commitment to reducing carbon emissions is demonstrated through its pioneering Climate Action Plan, which aligns with the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 strategic vision. AUS’ unwavering support extends to being a key participant in the UAE Alliance for Climate Action (UACA), a domestic coalition orchestrated by Emirates Nature-WWF. This alliance assumes a prominent role as the flagship non-state actor program in the run-up to COP28, championing accelerated progress towards achieving net zero targets aligning with scientific principles and the Paris Agreement.

About AUS:

American University of Sharjah (AUS) was founded in 1997 by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Sharjah. Sheikh Sultan articulated his vision of a distinctive institution against the backdrop of Islamic history and in the context of the aspirations and needs of contemporary society in the UAE and the Gulf region.

Firmly grounded in principles of meritocracy and with a strong reputation for academic excellence, AUS has come to represent the very best in teaching and research, accredited internationally and recognized by employers the world over for creating graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills and drive to lead in the 21st century.

AUS values learners not driven only by academic success, but by those that embrace our dynamic campus life and embody our ideals of openness, tolerance and respect. This combination of academic excellence and community spirit ensures AUS is filled with world-class faculty and students, poised to become the innovators, thinkers, contributors and leaders of tomorrow.

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