Teaching the scientists and engineers of tomorrow
"The advice I would give to entrepreneurs is that they have to persist. They have to keep on trying if they believe in what they’re doing. If they have passion about what they’re doing, they have to persevere and not step back. Keep on going."
The Little Engineer came to life in 2009 when founder, Rana El Chemaitelly, became concerned that her three children were spending too much time on their electronic devices and not enough time exploring the world around them.
At the time, EL Chemaitelly was working as an instructor in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at the American University of Beirut, specifically in the Mechanical and Engineering Management Department.
But her busy schedule as a teacher and a mother didn’t stop her from recognising the problem that young people were failing to find a passion and curiosity for the world of science and engineering.
Knowing that it would require a special kind of class, El Chemaitelly turned her mind to the design of a program that would surprise, delight and inspire a whole new generation of engineers and scientists, right across the Middle East and beyond.
“I was definitely inspired by my own children to educate them about the real world,” says Rana. “They were addicted to technology, and that’s why I wanted to show them the world in a positive way.”
New Technology, new thinking
The very first iteration of The Little Engineer was a six-week program that ran over the summer holidays. Once a week, students would attend a three-hour workshop where they were immersed in the world of robotics and renewable energy, and the possibilities they hold for the future.
Despite her already busy schedule, Rana quickly realised the value of these workshops in exposing young people to creativity and the possibilities available in the world of science and technology.
“Some of them [friends and family] said that I was crazy,” recalls Rana. “Especially my mother. She said ‘you’re leaving your kids!’. And I did have to travel and set up the office and attend conferences and she was resistant to that. My friends thought they’d lost me! I was fully booked. I was overwhelmed by the growth and the demand for The Little Engineer. But I knew this was a need for everyone. And now it’s been 8-years.”
Rana now works full time for The Little Engineer and is dedicated to spreading the good word. Inspirational courses are available for young people aged 4 to 18, and all have the aim of producing a positive social impact by encouraging education in scientific knowledge and skills needed for the challenging tomorrow.
Reaching young minds
The important work being done by Rana and her teams at The Little Engineer has received numerous awards, and in 2011 Rana was made a Laureate for the Middle East for the prestigious Cartier Woman’s Initiative Awards.
But there is a still a long way to go, and Facebook and Instagram are helping The Little Engineer spread the word and reach new students. “I launched my business through Facebook,” says Rana. “In 2009, this is how I started to promote the activity I was doing. Today we rely heavily on Facebook and on Instagram, for promoting our services and innovations. Facebook is crucial in our operation.”
Building the future
Along with expanding The Little Engineer into new countries and helping young people into the world of technology and engineering, Rana is dedicated to helping other entrepreneurs, especially women, in their careers by coaching and mentoring them.
“This is my second role: to help women in my country and my community. I’m on the board of the Lebanese Woman in Business as Vice- Presidents for two years now, and we’re always working on activities and workshops to empower girls and women. My second passion is to help women in my community.”
Rana comes from a family of entrepreneurs and is now 8-years into her second own business, so she knows how difficult it can be. But she has some simple advice for any woman starting their own business: “I can tell them you that you will face many challenges. But the more challenges you face, the stronger you will become. And you will excel.”
Learn more about Rana El Chemaitelly and The Little Engineer