TechGirls : Inspiring A Worthwhile Road

When i grow up, I want to...

When I grow up, I want to…

One year ago, I was going through the pictures of the Tech Girls of 2014, wishing I was one of them.

Yesterday, I was on Flickr, going through the pictures of Tech Girls of 2015 – the pictures of girls who have become sisters to me in the past 3 weeks. I still have trouble digesting the entire experience I had went through in the United States and the fact that I was even part of this program. Every single moment was a special one, a different one.

Sisters.

Sisters.

From the day I arrived, I knew that this is going to be a life-changing experience. Going from Washington DC’s airport to American University, I looked through the bus’ windows at DC:  Its clean vastness that boasted a contrast of lit signs of international companies and beautiful greenery is enough to inspire anyone to think big. Such forms of inspiration continued from the first moments of arrival up to the last minutes before departure – which for the fact, we spent at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM)’s annex (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center), digging deeper into the science, mechanics, and history of international and historic airplanes.

And I was right: it was a life-changing experience.

At Tech Girls, we were exposed to how the real tech world works and to how successful people have built themselves and their companies. We visited the big tech companies and met with several hard-working, intelligent women, each of which had her story to inspire us with. We visited museums that exposed us to the American culture, past scientific achievements, and future ideas on the road.  We went through a technology camp that empowered us with a programming language and creative ideas. We spent two days at a summer camp that gave us long-lasting friends. We learned about the importance of continuously giving back to our communities and about the strategies of designing projects fully focused on benefiting the people. We made friends – no, sisters – from all around the Arab World. We laughed, cried, danced, sang, and talked for hours. We fully embraced the importance of diversity, technology, and society.

Most importantly, we realized that the road in the field of technology is not going to be an easy one, but it will definitely be one that’s worth it.

Why?

Because the technology we develop is the future of the planet. Our innovation and hard work will be what will determine the next course humanity will take – be it regarding space exploration, renewable energy, social media, medicine, politics, and many more topics.

At Facebook and Yahoo, we met with women whose work is at the intersection between politics and social media: The effect of the work they do ripples into the hands of millions of users of these two massive companies. At Virginia Tech University, we saw and listened to the newest research and inventions being made: solar cells as thin and small as an A5 paper, doorsteps that can help conserve energy by turning off the electricity in rooms you are not in, 3D printing technology that can change the medical and industrial field, and much, much more.  And what these visits, and many others, made me realize is that everyone can have a role in technological development – not a small role, but a big one if he/she wants to. Everyone and anyone can change an entire industry if he/she put their mind and work into it.  Everyone and anyone can affect the community, country, and world they’re in.

Just think about it: The next coding class you’re giving might be to a 12 year old that would one day start what would become the biggest tech company. The next event you make might hold the inspiration that a young entrepreneur needs to launch his idea. The next picture you post might be one of a tech program that sparks the interest of a young girl in the suburbs of a big city – a program that once she applies to and gets accepted in might change her life.

Scratch the last “might”. The program already did.

Tech Girls gave me the confidence I needed to have in my tech abilities and ideas and in myself.  I now look at all the difficulties currently present in my country and in the world, and remember a sentence said by one of the women we met at Facebook:

“Every job I had did not exist before I had it. I saw this problem. I saw the solution, and I realized that I want to be the one to do this.”

 I see the problems, and I’m on the look-out for solutions.

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TARA Expedition 2014

On Tuesday afternoon, TARA arrived to Beirut’s port for a stay that will last a week. On Saturday afternoon, I visited through a B2 scouts trip the TARA Mediterranean Expedition of 2014.

TARA is a 25 year-old scientific ship which collects samples and data from oceans and seas. It was originally made for the arctic sails and has carried several missions in Antarctica since. Its aluminum-based structure allows it to easily travel the snow and ice, and the most recent trip to the arctic had been TARA Arctic, an expedition between 2006 and 2008 out of which over two dozen scientific publications resulted. Research director Jean-Claude Gascard has repeatedly emphasized on the importance of the findings of this trip stating that he “wouldn’t be surprised if people are still publishing works based on [that] data ten years from now.” Another trip, TARA Oceans, which took place between 2009 and 2012, bought back about 28,000 samples which helped in the development of research and analysis regarding bacterial diversity and new species of coral.

Currently, the 2014 expedition’s mission is to accomplish scientific studies regarding plastic pollution and to promote awareness of environmental challenges in the Mediterranean region. The accumulation of plastic has long been a challenge to nature, and we still know little about the role and destiny of that plastic to be able to predict the impact it could have on man and the oceans. The expedition will be seven months long and cover 22 stops.

The trip was educational, recreational, and interesting. However, what interested me most was the TARA expedition’s story, for it shows once again that it only needs few people and a passion to start something that makes a difference. The TARA educational and scientific expeditions that started in 2003 carry a tale of a mother and son who shared their passion for the ocean, the planet and the people. The ship was built 1989, and after serving for years, was bought by Agnès B. and Étienne Bourgois. The story, told by Agnès Trouble, goes as follows:

“The ship began her days as the ‘Antarctica’. She was built by Jean-Louis Étienne and the naval architects Luc Bouvet and Olivier Petit. Later she became the Sea master under Sir Peter Blake who sadly died aboard. Further down the line Sir Peter’s wife, Lady Blake, showed great interest in my son Étienne’s dream of conducting polar and scientific expeditions… In 2003, Étienne and I decided to buy the boat to carry out environmental work. My contribution is the Agnès B. endowment fund which co-finances, alongside other vital partners, the Tara and her expeditions.”

So the TARA remains one ship whose voice has reached many countries and organizations, and whose mission has been admired by numerous people, from UN SG Ban Ki-Moon who said that the TARA is “an example to be followed within the scientific community,” to Prince Albert II of Monaco who commented that “the TARA teaches us how to love the sea,” to countless photographers, journalists, students, and a bunch of marine B2 scouts who praised the ship and its expeditions even more.

The TARA expedition at Zeitouny Bay ends on the 12th of August, and so does the exhibition “Our Planet Ocean” located in the room beside Beirut Yacht Club.        

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