AUB Students Harness Their Creativity for the Environment at IBDAA 2012
Edible bottles, windows that produce water, and environmentally-friendly insect repellent were among designs unveiled recently by AUB students at the university's annual biodiversity event, a press release said Thursday.
Around 170 AUB students from nine disciplines, including: chemistry, chemical engineering, education, linguistics, nutrition, instrumentation, environmental health, management, and agribusiness recently participated in the International Biodiversity Day at AUB (IBDAA 2012, an acronym that also means “innovation” in Arabic).
The day was an opportunity for the students to display and share their work highlighting the innovative and creative role AUB is playing in the region's sustainability. The theme of IBDAA 2012 was desertification, a growing problem in the Middle East and North Africa, the release added.
“This event encourages undergraduate research, interdisciplinary research, and it’s a way of training students to come up with creative solutions to real life problems,” said Provost Ahmad Dallal in his speech. “It embodies everything we are trying to do as we move the university forward.”
Students from different academic backgrounds collaborated in some of the most ingenious projects on display.
For instance, B-Green is an all-natural repellent and insecticide created by a group of biology students to solve insect problems caused by increasing summer heat.
“We read an article about a certain chemical that exists in breast cancer as well as in pesticides and decided to find a new way to replace that and help the environment,” said Jessica El Halabi, junior biology student and member of the group.
Through mixing several essential oils, insect repellent, and air freshener, they created an environmentally friendly solution that proved to kill flies as well as make the room smell fresh and clean.
“The product is natural, not harmful to the environment and it works,” said Reda Kays, senior in business administration.
Another group created water windows, a double glazed window used as insulation during the day and a water source at night.
“The idea came [from] a story about a soldier, and hearing how in the old days, in the desert, they used to make water by digging a hole in the sand, filling it with leaves and covering the hole with a transparent plastic, and waiting for the water vapor to condense, thus creating water,” said creator Mohammad Rabih Hamou.
By introducing hot air through the sheets of the window, water is created through condensation. In the summer, the students reckon the system could save up to 10 percent of household water.
“Basically, the water collected could get you one shower,” said Hamou.
Another group of chemistry students created an edible bottle that would firmly hold water, prevent vaporization, and be easily carried around. They initially experimented with various molds, including gelatin and the chocolate from old Easter eggs.
“The gelatin was too weak and fell apart,” said Anass Abu Hatab, junior chemical engineering student. “But the dark chocolate was much stronger and was effective.”
The students agree that more research and testing needs to be done, but they remain positive.
“We are hoping to change the way people drink water and that it can be developed, adapted and produced in the future,” said Abu Hatab.
Some students came up with a food packing system to increase the life span of certain foods by creating a wooden box lined with baking powder and linseed oil to remove moisture and oxygen.
“With less green space, there will be less vegetation, so food will be more expensive. With this invention, the food will last longer,” said Karim Ismail, chemical engineering student.
Other projects consisted of energy saving blinds, a spray made from pine-oil to help plants absorb more water, a solution made from urine extract that helps plants grow faster, and a natural mold fighter that successfully kills off mold in just days.
All projects aimed to be environmentally friendly, decreasing the uses of harmful chemicals and stopping the production of pollution in the environment, while fighting the impending danger of desertification.
“This event provides the opportunity for undergraduate students to be creative, do research and participate in an interdisciplinary collaboration, to come up with innovative ideas, products or solutions promoting sustainability and the environment,” said Dr. Mohamad Abiad, IBDAA chair.
“It is through such events that we promote love for nature our way, by research, education and working with community. And we need your help,” said Professor Najat A. Saliba, director of Ibsar.
The award ceremony saw certificates given to professors and students with awards donated by IBDAA 2012 sponsor Jammal Trust Bank.
“Our sponsorship to IBDAA 2012 was to show our commitment to take our banking services outside the hallowed halls of the banking organization, and away from conventional banking services, to embrace and support young minds in their genuine efforts to serve and protect nature and to earn the reputation of a Green Organization through our support and encouragement of green lending, and sponsoring initiatives like this one,” said Jammal Trust Bank representative, Mohammad Fheili.