Jeddah in Saudi Arabia: 350 of the most brilliant young scientists from more than 40 countries are meeting for the first time. Starting in September 2009, the young men and women will form the first cohort of the newly founded King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). After completing their bachelor's degree, they will get to know their new university and prepare for the next step in their academic careers. In order for this to succeed, social and communication skills are required in addition to technical and analytical qualifications. Community building and the development of an independent understanding of leadership are to be specifically promoted in a 2-day program. KAUST has commissioned the consultants of Hoffmann Consulting with this task.
"We designed a workshop that lets students actively experience and reflect on what makes them tick and work effectively. As an individual, in a team and in the community. A workshop that challenges hand and brain," explains Jens Hoffmann. In these two days, the participants have learned that their different cultural backgrounds do not have to separate them, but rather enrich their time studying together. The students have grown together into a community and have gained confidence in themselves and their leadership qualities.
Learning as an event
The workshop was designed and led in collaboration with Disruptive Play (Dubai). A global team from 12 countries was secured for implementation.This team quickly succeeded in generating enthusiasm and bringing together the first generation of KAUST students into a vibrant community in a fast start.
To get into the goal of a "living KAUST community" thematically and let the participants develop their ideas, the event started with a presentation on collaboration and leadership, followed by a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY™ session. In the 80 teams, the young women and men got to know each other directly and started intensive conversations about themselves and their expectations. They modelled their understanding of leadership, teamwork and community with special LEGO material and shared this in their groups. Based on this, the teams each developed a common model of a living KAUST community, their personal role in it and their intended contribution to society.
The highlight of the workshop was an interactive robotics project that required extraordinary communication and teamwork skills from the participants. Each team constructed a LEGO MINDSTORMS™ robot that transported a ping pong ball over a certain distance from one team to the next. The common goal of all 80 teams was to make the balls travel in an endless loop through the ballroom.
After hours of concentrated work, lively discussions and new insights into project management and problem-solving methods, the big goal had been achieved. And the students had experienced what they can achieve as a group even in a very short time.
Finally, the great event was concluded with a moderated reflection on what had happened and what had been learned. A final and outstanding team performance after an exhausting workshop showed how successful it had been: In a World Café session, the students distilled their learning successes into four TOP 5 lists.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is Saudi Arabia's new elite university, personally launched by King Abdullah, and opened in September 2009. KAUST is making history simply by being the first university in Saudi Arabia where women and men study together. Moreover, KAUST is open not only to Arab students, but to students from all countries. The faculties engage in groundbreaking research in natural sciences and engineering under the guidance of top-notch faculty from around the world. The focus is on sustainable issues such as ecology and energy production, which will serve not only the Arab world, but the world as a whole.
We would like to thank all those involved at KAUST, our partners and especially the first students of KAUST for this unique experience and collaboration!