For the second consecutive year, The American University in Cairo (AUC) had a strong presence at the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) Conference, where a team of seven undergraduate and graduate students, accompanied by two faculty members, presented 19 research papers. The AUC team traveled to Saskatchewan, Canada to present on topics including construction methods and management, construction management and optimization, usage of earth materials and simple techniques for low-cost housing, design of green roof concrete units and structural engineering. Undergraduate participants Mohamed Kasbar and Mireille Kirollos and graduate students Amr Mostafa Fathy, Ibrahim Abotaleb, Mohamed Afifi, Reem Abou-Ali and Ayman Thabit are all part of AUC’s construction engineering program. The students were supervised by Mohamed Nagib Abou-Zeid, professor in the Department of Construction and Architectural Engineering and CSCE conference veteran for more than a decade, and Mohamed Darwish, adjunct faculty member in the same department.Abotaleb presented research on utilizing the capabilities of graphical programming to optimize construction site layout. “Applying such models would enhance productivity and safety during construction and decrease unnecessary costs,” explained Abotaleb, who had previously participated in the same conference. Reflecting on this year, Abotaleb stated that the CSCE conference “provides a broad range of topics and is always enriching. What made this conference unique to me is AUC’s strong presence, especially in the current tough competition of the construction research field,” he said.
Fathy presented research in the architectural and electromechanical disciplines, with a new approach to construction management that focused on cost saving and quality improvement. Participating in the conference for the second time, he saw himself and his fellow students flourishing at an event that brings together students and professionals from across the globe. “We are raising the bar of the quality of research produced by AUCians in the international arena,” declared Fathy.
Several of the student papers presented at the conference originated from group research projects in a construction methods course taught by Darwish. “The high value of these projects encouraged us to take each of them one step further and add more in order to transform them into conference papers,” said Darwish. “The students did a magnificent job at this conference.”
Darwish was especially impressed by his students’ ability to work under pressure. “They were among the best [participants] in the conference in terms of presentation skills and [having a] high level of understanding of the work,” he said.
Abou-Zeid noted that the AUC team was a talented and balanced group, representing graduate and undergraduate students, as well as faculty members. “This year went from strong to stronger; we were among the top two contributors to this event,” said Abou-Zeid, who was a panelist at the first-of-its-kind conference discussion, “Sustainability in Construction: Are We Doing Enough?” where he spoke about the University’s emphasis on pursuing green building practices in construction.
For some of the students like Abou-Ali, this was their first experience at the CSCE. “I was really enthralled,” recalled Abou-Ali. “The event is a powerful tool for networking and exchanging knowledge. I was impressed by the flow of knowledge that came directly from industry leaders.”
Even those who participated before found networking to be one of the conference’s unique assets. Fathy, for example, was able to build upon the professional connections he made at last year’s conference. “Reconnecting with last year’s colleagues and networking with new faces, strengthened relationships, expanded my connections and increased my knowledge,” he said.
The students’ presentations also sparked interest from other conference attendees. “The responses to AUC student papers at the conference went far beyond our imaginations, as the audience expressed strong interest in the presented work,” said Darwish, who co-authored eight papers and presented an additional paper authored by graduate student Omar Farahat and Samer Ezeldin, professor and chair of the Department of Construction and Architectural Engineering, on the construction management and financial sides of recycling concrete technologies in Egypt.
Abou-Zeid added that some of the students were approached by reputable universities about pursuing their graduate studies. “It was yet another reflection of the quality of work presented,” he noted.
For the students, the experience increased confidence in their abilities and education. “I have enhanced my professional networks and participated in highly professional discussions,” said Abou-Ali. “Attending the conference and having the chance to review the works of other students from top universities in different countries reassured me that AUC students have been provided with the finest education system, especially the construction engineering program.”
Abotaleb echoed Abou-Ali’s excitement about using what they have learned as AUC students to contribute to an industry conference on the international stage. “I have always believed in the construction engineering department and the capabilities of its professors and students to produce top-notch research outcomes, and our presence and performance in the conference has strengthened my belief,” stated Abotaleb.