• A group of 58 MIT students, alumni and staff spent five days over spring break in Abu Dhabi as part of the annual Terrascope program for first-year students. Each year, students in the popular class are tasked with solving a very complex problem. This year’s mission is the global problem of rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    A group of 58 MIT students, alumni and staff spent five days over spring break in Abu Dhabi as part of the annual Terrascope program for first-year students. Each year, students in the popular class are tasked with solving a very complex problem. This year’s mission is the global problem of rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    Photo: Vicki McKenna

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  • The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology hosted the Terrascope group’s visit. Masdar is the Middle East’s first graduate research institution dedicated to alternative energy, environmental technologies and sustainability. This view shows a library, laboratory cluster, living quarters and utility/transportation space.

    The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology hosted the Terrascope group’s visit. Masdar is the Middle East’s first graduate research institution dedicated to alternative energy, environmental technologies and sustainability. This view shows a library, laboratory cluster, living quarters and utility/transportation space.

    Photo: Vicki McKenna

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  • Students view the planned development of Saadiyat Island, a project in Abu Dhabi that includes a cultural district, residential areas, recreation areas and a business district.

    Students view the planned development of Saadiyat Island, a project in Abu Dhabi that includes a cultural district, residential areas, recreation areas and a business district.

    Photo: Vicki McKenna

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  • The group toured greenhouses where initial experiments are growing plants under varying conditions of salinity, watering frequency and fertilizer. Conditions that prove beneficial in the greenhouse are then further tested in a protected outdoor area over a longer term.

    The group toured greenhouses where initial experiments are growing plants under varying conditions of salinity, watering frequency and fertilizer. Conditions that prove beneficial in the greenhouse are then further tested in a protected outdoor area over a longer term.

    Photo: Vicki McKenna

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  • During the trip, the group visited a coastal sabkha, which is a flat, salt-encrusted desert that may sit atop oil and gas reserves. Here, Stephen Lokier, a professor at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, explains the composition of each layer of the sediment, which is a mixture of carbonate sands, muds and minerals.

    During the trip, the group visited a coastal sabkha, which is a flat, salt-encrusted desert that may sit atop oil and gas reserves. Here, Stephen Lokier, a professor at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, explains the composition of each layer of the sediment, which is a mixture of carbonate sands, muds and minerals.

    Photo: Vicki McKenna

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  • Known as the Beam Down Project, this small, experimental solar farm at the Masdar Institute has ground solar collectors that reflect light to the central, aerial reflector. That reflector then directs the beams to a ceramic plate located at ground level that measures the amount of energy generated from the sunlight.

    Known as the Beam Down Project, this small, experimental solar farm at the Masdar Institute has ground solar collectors that reflect light to the central, aerial reflector. That reflector then directs the beams to a ceramic plate located at ground level that measures the amount of energy generated from the sunlight.

    Photo: Lauren Kuntz

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  • The group also spent time at Bastakiya, one of the oldest historic sites in Dubai. The wind towers seen here are some of the last in existence and were built in the 1890s by wealthy textile and pearl traders from Iran. Designed to funnel cool air into building interiors, they were essentially old-fashioned air conditioners.

    The group also spent time at Bastakiya, one of the oldest historic sites in Dubai. The wind towers seen here are some of the last in existence and were built in the 1890s by wealthy textile and pearl traders from Iran. Designed to funnel cool air into building interiors, they were essentially old-fashioned air conditioners.

    Photo: Vicki McKenna

    Full Screen
  • Part of the group’s guided tour of Abu Dhabi included a desert safari. Here they climb up one of many sand dunes.

    Part of the group’s guided tour of Abu Dhabi included a desert safari. Here they climb up one of many sand dunes.

    Photo: Lauren Kuntz

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Slideshow: A Terrascope spring break

A group of 58 MIT students, alumni and staff spent five days over spring break in Abu Dhabi as part of the annual Terrascope program for first-year students. Each year, students in the popular class are tasked with solving a very complex problem. This year’s mission is the global problem of rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Students visit Abu Dhabi to learn about plans for the world’s first carbon-neutral city


A group of 58 MIT students, alumni and staff recently returned from a five-day trip to Abu Dhabi to study the practical application of technology for renewable energy solutions.

The trip was part of Terrascope, a yearlong program for first-year students that begins each fall with a mission to solve an “unsolvable” or very complex problem. The students spend the fall semester designing a viable solution and then travel during spring break to a location related to the complex problem where they experience the reality of the solutions they have proposed.

This year’s mission is the global problem of rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. During the fall, the class explored ways to reduce global output, as well as methods for carbon capture and sequestration. They developed a plan for the coming decades and presented their solution on a web site.

In Abu Dhabi, the MIT group learned about Masdar City, a planned 50,000-person metropolis that will have no carbon footprint. The trip, which was supported by the Massiah Foundation, also included visits to various pilot sites currently testing carbon sequestration techniques.

Sam Bowring, Terrascope director and professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, said the trip gave his students a chance to see firsthand “the challenges of working with multiple global partners to develop commercial-scale, sustainable energy solutions.”

The visit was hosted by faculty and students from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the Middle East’s first graduate research institution dedicated to alternative energy, environmental technologies and sustainability. MIT’s Technology and Development Program is providing assistance and scholarly assessment in the development of the Institute.

Read more about the visit at the students’ blog.


Topics: Education, teaching, academics, Energy, Environment, Global, Staff, Students, Urban studies and planning

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