More than 500 attendees making the closing ceremony for the Summer Program to an impressive testimony to its success.
Hosted by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, the event was a celebration of the power of imagination and innovation of Saudi communities to enjoy and examine their creations of its sons, daughters, friends and peers.
The goal of FABLAB is to support the Kingdom’s creative and productive culture by encouraging students to discover the joy of making. Throughout August its Summer Program has provided participants with hands-on training sessions.
Three program categories were created for middle school, high school and college students; each program session was designed to cater to a certain age group of three to five participants per group. The main goal was to complete 24 products that have a positive impact on society and to exhibit them at the program’s final ceremony.
Ideas were bounced about FABLAB-Dhahran as students came together during their scheduled session to design and create a prototype in three days. During the first day, students received a comprehensive training session to prepare them for the fabrication process in the days to follow.
Ruba Al-Assaf, volunteer and leader of a university-level group, was pleased with her team’s enthusiasm and diligence. “We were nervous at first because we had a lot of pieces,” said Al-Assaf. “We had to understand the nuts and bolts of making a 3D printer — quite literally.”
Knowing that their products needed to benefit society added to the pressure. This was especially true for Nada Al- Mansouri, graduate of Arab Open University, who had always wanted to provide more creative solutions for her community. Al-Mansouri said that with simple digital circuits, solar cells and rechargeable batteries, her team was able to make a phone charger that uses solar energy. “We can use the natural resources that we have to come up with the products that we need,” she said.
Mohammed Al-Senwar, FABLAB-Dhahran’s director, applauded the efforts of the students in designing and creating their own prototypes. “We have grown too comfortable in our lifestyles, and it has made it difficult for people to find the incentive to make something when they can simply buy it from the nearest store,” he said during the closing ceremony of the summer program.
Another aspect of the creative process is failure, said university-level group leader Motheeb Al-Khashram. “You can’t expect everything you make to work,” he said. “Sure, seeing results is what ultimately brings people back to the prototyping table, but at the end of the day, you have to believe that your failures are bringing you one step closer to success.”
As the ceremony came to an end, 16-year-old Manal Al-Yahya tried not to fiddle with the smart table she had built with her team. This simple prototype design set off blinking lights to alert users when their laptop overheats. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to join this program,” she said as she poked the wooden pieces that she hammered together the previous night. “I really enjoyed working with my hands and will definitely keep pursuing these programs to expand my knowledge and create more.”
The achievements of the iThra Knowledge Program demonstrate Saudi Aramco’s ambition to be more than just a leader in the oil and gas field.
The program’s success may be evident by the impressive number of visitors, but the buzz it has generated in the capital city recently shows Saudi Aramco’s support of the Kingdom’s efforts to become a knowledge-based society.
“The program was the talk of the town,” Khalid A. Al-Falih, president and CEO, said to iThra Knowledge Program organizers and members of management in Riyadh on Tuesday. Al-Falih noted, however, that the program is connecting not only on a local level, but on a national level and beyond, too.
The conclusion of the program in Riyadh on Aug. 29 marked the fourth city at which the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture has hosted the program, with previous stops in Dhahran, al-Hasa and Jiddah.
The CEO expressed pride in the role the iThra Knowledge team and volunteers played in making the event a success, noting that through such efforts, “We are living our values and sharing them with our community.”
Al-Falih noted that although community expectations continue to rise with every stop, the program team is not only meeting the challenge, but exceeding expectations. “It demonstrates that the company is not just a leader in the oil and gas field; it is also a leader in supporting the Kingdom’s drive toward a knowledge society.”
“The program offered a great deal of substance to our communities and families in a very innovative way. iThra shows the connection to our heritage and culture with a pride in our identity,” the CEO added.
More than 640,000 visitors managed to take part in the fourth stop of Saudi Aramco’s iThra Knowledge program in Riyadh last month. The total number of visitors to all four programs in Dhahran, Jiddah, al-Hasa and Riyadh has surpassed the two million mark.
Visitors reflected on the value of the program, which offered — through well thought of pavilions — an attractive and entertaining, educational program suitable for all family members. Praise was received from regular visitors as well as high level Saudi officials and members of the diplomatic community in Riyadh.
HH Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Thunayan, chairman of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu said: “Saudi Aramco is giving the young generation a chance to be exposed to culture and innovation through this program.”
HE Abdullatif Al-Othman, Governor and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, said, “The program embodies the concepts of knowledge and community service, as well as the idea of edutainment to transfer knowledge and information.”
U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Joseph W. Westphal thought the program should be permanent and travel around the world. “I think we need activities such as iThra Knowledge to be applied around the world,” he said. “We need such activities to challenge the creativity within people.” Westphal’s sentiments were echoed by many visiting ambassadors, including Turkish Ambassador Yunus Demirer and Canadian ambassador Thomas MacDonald, who said, “Everything in the program delighted and impressed me; and Saudi Aramco should be proud of it.”
The success of the program was due to the thoughtfulness that went into the selection of creative displays in all pavilions, which included the “Names of Allah,” “Energy Efficiency,” “1001 Inventions” “Tinkering Studio” and the “Traffic Safety Village.”
The Riyadh numbers alone speak louder than words. In social media, the program generated 250 million tweets and 65 million Facebook impressions. In traditional media, 107 TV reports, 65 press articles and 40 live radio interviews highlighted the monthlong event.
Perhaps Amani AlHawwas, mother of Layan, the youngest volunteer at iThra Knowledge-Riyadh, captures the excitement and value of Saudi Aramco’s Riyadh program the best: “Above all, volunteering here has taught Layan to depend on herself, and there is no doubt it has developed the scope of her comprehension and personal cognitive skills. But on a different level the professionalism exhibited by Saudi Aramco and attention by the supervisors of the volunteer program created an outstanding atmosphere unlike anything I have ever witnessed before.”
Speaking at this year’s Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) Conference and Exhibition, Khalid A. Al-Falih, Saudi Aramco president and CEO, addressed the challenges facing the industry and gave insights into Saudi Aramco’s strategy for turning these into opportunities.
Hosted this year by the Norwegian state-owned oil company, Statoil, ONS is one of the key industry exhibitions and conferences for the offshore oil and gas industry. The biennial event attracts more than 1,000 exhibitors and more than 50,000 visitors and provides a platform for the presentation of the political, economic and technological issues involving the international oil and gas industry, as well as showcasing the latest innovations within the industry.
In his speech, Al-Falih outlined some of the chief challenges that major producers such as Saudi Aramco face, including rising project costs, critical manpower shortages, global economic weakness and political turmoil in many oil producing regions, including Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. These challenges must be faced with “prudent caution,” Al-Falih said, focusing on long-term strategies for meeting the growing global need for energy and enhancing “our industry’s resilience to the kinds of shocks, surprises and difficulties” the industry currently faces.
The industry’s greatest challenge, Al-Falih said, is meeting its primary purpose of supplying energy to the world, where global energy demand is set to grow by more than a third from the current level. To do that, “our industry will need to add close to 40 million barrels per day of new capacity in the next two decades,” Al-Falih said. “To put that figure into perspective, that’s equivalent to approximately 30 Norways or 15 times America’s current unconventional oil production.”
Khalid A. Al-Falih, Saudi Aramco President and CEO
“We are convinced that innovation and cutting-edge technology are the key strategic enablers of our current success and future competitiveness, which is why we are tripling our R&D manpower and increasing our R&D funding five-fold.”
Saudi Aramco’s strategy for meeting that growing demand is to invest $40 billion a year over the next decade to keep steady the company’s maximum sustained oil production capacity at its current 12 million barrels a day level, in addition to doubling its current gas production levels. Much of this capital will go into offshore projects, Al-Falih said, both in large-scale projects similar to its Manifa project in the Arabian Gulf, and more recent offshore exploration in the Red Sea and Midyan fields.
“Each company, naturally, will choose its own course, given its unique capabilities and objectives,” Al-Falih said. “At Saudi Aramco, we have realized the major shifts in our landscape and have undertaken a transformative and comprehensive change process that leverages innovation and technology, talent, agility and resilience, and our business investments and portfolio expansion, in addition to strengthening our proactive role in the broader development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“We are convinced that innovation and cutting-edge technology are the key strategic enablers of our current success and future competitiveness, which is why we are tripling our R&D manpower and increasing our R&D funding five-fold,” Al-Falih said. By setting a company goal of becoming leaders in technological innovation in a dozen domains, Saudi Aramco is on target for increasing its oil recovery to 70 percent, allowing it to add more than 100 billion barrels of oil resources to its already large portfolio. Al-Falih also pointed to major advancements in drilling, which is vital to realizing Saudi Arabia’s significant unconventional gas potential.
The CEO also emphasized that the company continues to diversify across the value chain and increase its global footprint. “Even as other companies are retrenching, we will be investing to build a vertically and horizontally integrated, top-tier refining, marketing, petrochemicals, lubes and power business — with much of that expansion coming in the form of joint ventures with other leading global firms at home and abroad,” Al-Falih said.
Read Al-Falih’s speech at the ONS 2014.
Al-Ayyam Al-Jamilah is a twice-yearly magazine distributed to retired employees and adult children of the Saudi Aramco Enterprise. Much of the content is compiled from letters, articles, news clippings and photos submitted by its readers.
The magazine often includes historic photos that shed light on life in the Saudi Aramco community during the early years. It also includes articles prepared by retirees touching on their past and the company’s history. One issue annually features the Saudi Aramco Annuitants Reunion, held every year since 1958. Other retiree reunions and gatherings of offspring are also covered.
Al-Ayyam Al-Jamilah – Fall 2014
“Play’s the Thing”: Dhahran Theatre Group members stage an impromptu performance in honor of the 29th Annuitants Reunion on the steps of the reunion venue in Asheville, N.C.
Click Here to Download Al-Ayyam Al-Jamilah – Fall 2014