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A greener tomorrow starts today

[photo]
Members of the team.

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March 26, 2013—

LAU industrial engineering graduates Pierre Njeim, Wissam el-Hachem and Perla Homsi, and political science student Noushig Ghazarian are the recent winners of the Young Alumni Competition award. They were awarded a $3,000 grant for their proposal entitled “A System Dynamics Approach for a Greener Tomorrow” as part of the Department of State federal assistance awards. Out of thirty total proposals, the four-member group’s was one of only five proposals to be awarded this grant.

Orchestrated by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, the Young Alumni Competition gives State Alumni between the ages of 17 and 25 the chance to devise, design and implement a community service project that exhibits their leadership skills in their communities.

It all started a few months ago when Dr. Ramy Harik, assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Mechanical Engineering, informed Njeim about the competition, encouraging him and his colleagues to submit a seemly proposal.

“The original idea we came up with addressed corporate environmental responsibility, and what we finally ended up working with somewhat deviated from that,” recalls Njeim.

By employing system dynamics — a computer-aided approach that helps to decipher and understand the behavior of complex systems over time — the quartet constructed a dynamic model that aims to decrease the negative environmental effects of various industries, also subbed subsystems. These include, but are not limited to, municipality waste and taxation, industrial waste, traffic pollution, reforestation, and water pollution.

“It’s not as simple as it sounds,” stresses the ever-feisty Njeim. “What we’re interested in the most is the impact that government investment has on various factors within these subsystems: we learned that by increasing this investment, traffic volume and CO2 traffic emission, among others, decrease, thus decreasing overall pollution.”

Under the advisory wing of Dr. Marc Haddad, assistant professor in the Industrial and Mechanical Engineering department, the quartet resorted to Vensim — a simulation software pitched at finding an optimal solution for situations that need analysis, while précising the various possible results of a certain decision — in order to design the project.

The students’ very first exposure to, and subsequent proficiency in, the software materialized in a course taught to them by Haddad himself. “Vensim played a pivotal role in this project, and we used LAU’s computer lab in order to construct the model; we couldn’t have completed this project if it weren’t for Dr. Haddad and his class,” says Njeim.


The system dynamics approach the group adopted to tackle this issue allowed them to model the interaction between the industrial causes of the pollution problem and its societal effects, and to test the impact of potential solutions on both, says Haddad. “This work is of great practical value and can be built upon in future studies. We are very proud of the hard work and dedication that our students demonstrated throughout this project,” he adds.

The group would like to thank the coordinator of the Young Alumni Competition Nancy G. Stephan, and LAU professors Dr. Marc Haddad, Dr. Ramy Harik, and Dr. Jean-Paul Arnaout for their immeasurable help and guidance during the developmental phase of this project.
 


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