AUB graduate and instructor Sevag Babikian did his country and his alma mater proud by winning third place in Qatar Foundation’s eighth season of the “Stars of Science” competition aired on MBC television.
Sevag’s design for an innovative design for a new kind of 3-D printer which maximizes quality, while saving time, effort, and wasted material, was initially leading after the vote by the professional jury but he lost out in the popular vote.
Seven judges from different backgrounds (medical, management, marketing, engineering, and environment) selected finalists throughout the competition. Sevag won each phase, until he was selected as one of the top-four finalists in the competition’s penultimate episode.
Throughout the series, criteria were considered such as personal effort, concept, marketability, social and environmental impact, innovation, feasibility, and service.
Sevag, 27, received his BE in mechanical engineering and then pursued a master’s degree with an emphasis in mechatronics, supervised by Dr. Daniel Asmar and Dr. Elie Shammas. “The research in locomotion of snake robotics helped bridge the gap between theory and application,” Sevag told us.
After gaining his master’s in 2012, he worked in a medical plastics factory and smaller startups before joining AUB again as a part-time lab instructor in 2013.
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“Moving from a student to a professional in the domain is not an easy task. AUB’s undergraduate program allowed me to discover which sub-domain I want to continue my career in,” he said. “Being an instructor in the mechanical engineering department helped me dig further into details in the labs to be able to provide the best of both theory and application.”
“During my masters, and with the help of my advisors, I could discover how proper research is done. We published a paper in one of the top robotics conferences (IROS2012). This opportunity allowed me to present our research in front of a big crowd and many were even surprised that we are involved in robotics research in Beirut!” he said.
Sevag became involved in numerous freelance engineering projects on product development, electronics and industrial automation, and robotics specifically for the plastics industry. He wanted to follow in the steps of his undergraduate mechatronics instructor Bassam Jalgha.
Bassam had won the first season of Stars of Science in 2009. Four years later, Sevag joined AUB as a part-time instructor to replace Bassam who had to leave the country to develop his product further.
“I always wanted to participate in [Stars of Science] but never had the right idea to go with,” said Sevag. “This year, with the proper idea and all the skills I gained in AUB and the industry, I could participate and place first in lab during the two phases, prototyping and customer validation, advancing to the finals.”
What next for Sevag?
Sevag is working on forming a team that complements his technical skills with management and programming skills to be able to take the project from the prototype he created to a user-friendly product. Work has already started on getting a final prototype designed and manufactured by end of January 2017.
Different options lie ahead for Sevag in Lebanon and abroad. Much depends on proper analysis of the market and investment acquirement, once the team and skillsets have been attained.
“My dream is to have this technology available on every desk, for the biggest audience possible, professionals and non-professionals,” Sevag told us.
"Having been ranked first by the judges of Stars of Science, is yet another check-mark for Sevag’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Dr. Elie Shammas, who mentored Sevag during the competition as well, told us.
“This achievement also reflects on education and experience at AUB as an ecosystem that is conducive to entrepreneurship.
“One must not forget the time constraints under which Sevag realized this achievement, so one can’t but keep an eye on what Sevag can achieve as he matures and delves deeper into pushing the technological envelope.
“All this has happened as AUB is celebrating its 150th anniversary, it is clear that AUB's ‘We make history’ slogan cannot but lead to ‘We shape the future’,” he added.
“I salute Sevag on his outstanding performance,” Interim Dean of FEA, Dr. Alan Shihadeh, told us. “He wonderfully and gracefully embodies qualities of character – resourcefulness, perseverance, and creativity – that we strive to nurture at FEA. In this regard I note happily that FEA alumni like Sevag and those before him have established an FEA family lineage of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship that we will build on and amplify with new initiatives, so stay tuned!”