The YFEL annual calendar of activities is carefully designed, enabling members to widen their knowle...

'The Last Frontier' : A Classroom

Antarctica. It’s the world’s last unspoiled frontier and a place of remarkable beauty. This extreme environment also offers enormous research and educational opportunities, particularly for students of alternative energy and sustainability. UAE nationals Reem Al Junaibi and Maitha Al Kaabi, two YFELs who also are graduate students at Masdar Institute, had the life-changing opportunity to experience this first hand.

The YFEL program opened the way for their application to participate in the 16-day International Antarctic Expedition 2012. This once-in-a-lifetime research, sustainability and leadership program was led by renowned polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan, who, through the program, seeks to develop global ambassadors to champion environment preservation and sustainability.

Reem, who is a graduate student in the Engineering Systems Management program, researches the impact of mixed, intermittent energy sources on the electric grid. During the trip they visited the E-Base research station, which operates entirely on renewable energy. Maitha, who is a graduate student working in the Green Composites and Bio-fuels Lab of the Water and Environmental Engineering program, studies the preparation of materials for use in water treatment and purification. Antarctica, which is a virtual desert, provided valuable insights and perspectives on the challenges of sustainably producing potable water.

Reem and Maitha also benefited from the IAE 2012 guest experts on the environment, climate change, sustainable development, and outdoor leadership, who hosted presentations, debates, and lessons in the dynamic “classroom” of the Antarctica to prepare them to be ambassadors of the environment and change.