Blog post 6

Does your work require IRB approvals? If Yes, articulate your detailed IRB strategy. If No, explain why you don’t need IRB approval and identify situations when you might need IRB approval.

We do not believe that we will need IRB approval because we do not have the intent to use human subjects in our research. Our goal is to create a smart innovation for the city of Almaty that will enhance citizen’s lives, which could potentially be used in other cities after that. Our work, therefore, qualifies as research according to the IRB because we will be collecting data, and hopefully adding to generalizable knowledge by publishing our work and making presentations. However, we do not intend to manipulate people in any way or use people to gather specific data in a type of experiment. Because our plan, as of now, is to focus on something along the lines of the environment, infrastructure, heating, or transportation, the data we will be looking at is mostly on how machines or products or the system works. Not so much on people. 

We will, at some point, be talking to people in Kazakhstan, and citizens of Almaty and collect their data and feedback to study how it was perceived and how we can improve our solution to better fit the culture and environment in Almaty, so we will need IRB approval because we would be using human subjects. Also, if we changed our project idea, and needed to start collecting private information from the citizens of Almaty, then we would need an IRB approval. 

Develop an outline for your mid-semester presentations. What supporting evidence will you provide for each point? How will you boost your credibility every step of the way?

For our mid-semester presentations, we will start by explaining that Kazakhstan is a very resource-rich country and is very developed. Their cities have been growing significantly over the years. In order to make the cities the most efficient they can be, smart city innovations should be developed to help fix infrastructural, environmental, or overcrowding issues. Coming up with a smart innovation that will effectively work in Almaty, will help make the city more efficient and hopefully be able to be cleverly translated to other cities in Kazakhstan, or even around the world. Our goal is to develop a device that improves life in Almaty but can also be generally applied to other cities around the world that are experiencing this surge of growth. The innovation will also be able to improve each citizen’s lives too. The magnitude of which we will not be able to determine until we decide on the exact innovation that will work. 

We will then explain all the research we have done on smart, digital, urban, and in use innovations on parking, pollution, short term travelers, and quality of life. We will describe, with specifics, how certain innovations have been successful in other countries, and how we see that something similar might work in Almaty. If we have been able to get our article published on Engineering for Change by this time, then we will make sure to mention that in our presentation at this point. The importance of the Engineering for Change article is to establish a brand for our project. We want to educate people about the significant roles that small but impactful smart innovations can have on developing cities and countries. 

We will continue by explaining that our project is new, so our goal as of now is to work with our partners in KazNU and AlmaU (name drop), the two major universities in Kazakhstan to figure out potential issues in Almaty that can be improved. We will work with them via Skype calls, and email/texts, to build our relationship and understanding of the city. The use of partners currently in Almaty brings credibility that our project is focussing on social and cultural integration as well as acceptance. At the end of the day, our product is made for the people of Almaty.

Once we understand the issues, we will begin to brainstorm solutions and potential innovations that could work and present them to the panel, making sure they understand that we have not decided on one solution, but will decide on one before the semester ends and work on a prototype during the summer.

When we travel to Almaty, we will use that time to test our solutions and receive feedback from the public and explore other prevalent issues in the city, expanding our scope of solutions. This time will also be great to make strong connections with the community there and our partners, to further understand each other and make our expectations clear. 

All in all, our presentation will show the process in which we took to research the contemporary smart city solutions with their potential benefits and drawbacks and our plan moving forward. We will also analyze the potential benefits our posed solutions would have, how will each of them improve life in Almaty, and the applicability of each one not only to cities in Almaty but to the world.

Our credibility will be established by the rigidity of the sources and research we will present and the fact that we are partnering with the only three universities in Kazakhstan to try and reach a solution that will actually make a difference and be practical in that environment. We will also be sure to get as much feedback as possible from the communities to understand where our solution is best applied.

Bishoy Youhana

Philosophy of engagement

Ten things that make me feel alive:

  1. Empathy
    • The ability to understand what someone is experiencing or going through makes you realize how you can relate to other humans in their state of emotion. The ability to severely punish someone is considered inhumane because it is an instinct to empathize with what the other person is feeling and try to improve their state if it’s bad.
  2. Freedom of thought expression
    • The ability to express my ideas, whether it is through the spoken or written word, is a fundamental right everyone should possess and take advantage of. It is part of exercising our intellectual prowess.
  3. Contribution
    • One’s legacy, what you leave behind. Knowing what will live on after you die, as a part of you, ironically makes you feel alive.
  4. Improvement
    • Learning from my and others’ past mistakes to learn from them, employ this experience in my decision making, and not repeat them.
  5. Love
    • Feeling loved by a partner or friend is something that elevates your sense of life, belonging, and purpose.
  6. Critical thinking and analysis
    • Thinking exercises the main reason we outsmarted our ancestors. Solving problems using unique and unorthodox solutions is why the agricultural, industrial, and technological revolutions have started and ended with fruitful legacies, mostly.
  7. Gatherings
  • Socializing with people and sharing experiences helps me empathize. Staying around people, in general, keeps one sane.
  1. Adrenaline rushes
  • Getting that feeling of emotions being pumped inside of you constantly reminds me that I am alive.
  1. Religion
    • Practicing my religion keeps my soul in a state of peace and fulfillment.
  2. Discipline
    • Being able to control myself (not just act on my instincts) and organize my time is exclusively human ability.
  1. Articulate your philosophy of engagement as it pertains to your work with the GSIF / LVSIF.

I think everyone should engage and contribute to our work towards a shared goal. I should engage and contribute to my GSIF project as zealously as everyone in my team does. Not everyone in the team is able to contribute to the project equally; however, everyone should try their best to do so. In our smart cities project, I can contribute, as a computer engineer, with my elementary knowledge in computer systems and designs. As a minority, I can contribute to ensure our technology doesn’t create segregation. I should engage because this project will eventually help improve the living situation of people in Almaty, and potentially other places, it will enhance my teamwork skills and writing ability, and give me an opportunity early in my life to make a change. These reasons are ultimately why I decided to engage in this program.

Engagement has to be meaningful to ensure we don’t waste our time and energy, we have to collaborate with natives to solve meaningful problems. This collaboration should be with students in the area, as well as general locals. Students would help us understand the situation and create attempts to solve the problems. Locals will serve as focus groups to test our solutions and make sure they’re useful and practical. I also have to collaborate with my team members. Understanding each other’s schedules and shortcomings will help set realistic goals and workloads. Familiarizing ourselves with how we think is also crucial to achieving our goals efficiently.

There will be many challenges to get to our goals, and they all should be considered at the correct time. It would be foolish to consider to work on governmental approval without a working prototype, thus energy should be intelligently spent on the right aspects in the project in the right time. Financial opportunities should be grasped because you never know just how much money Lehigh can give you. Opportunities to grow and expand should be taken at the correct time, otherwise, energy will be wasted. Problems should be approached from a cultural, technological, and legislative point of view. Our solutions have to fit in the culture, have to be achievable through affordable modern technology, practical, and legal.

I don’t know what my epitaph will read, but I would want it my legacy to be change at the largest scale I can achieve. Personal gain is obviously one of my main goals, but offering the opportunity for people to work, study, or live has a moral satisfaction that cannot be described in words. I want my epitaph to solely mention my impact on the underprivileged, then my community (including family).


Bishoy Youhana

Blog Post #4

  1. Based on your life experience, skills and interests, what would a design process that is both uniquely yours and effective look like?

We want our unique design process to integrate with the people living in Almaty.  It has to be a process that is sustainable, and that will promote entrepreneurial growth in Kazakhstan. The process has to be driven by the people’s needs, and our opinion will be complementary.

  1. Identify your three most important stakeholders and list five UNIQUE attributes for each one of them.

The students at KazNu that we are partnering with are definitely one of our most important stakeholders. Their unique attributes include their lifestyle. Since they are students in the city of Almaty, they see what is happening there every day. Their personality is also an important attribute because they are a younger generation so they will see issues differently from some other adults living there. Their opinions are very important because they are the ones living there, so we are trying to improve their lives with our innovation. Where they reside is clearly important because they are in the city of Almaty, but they are also living in dorms which is unique. Their social class is also unique because some of them could be coming from different backgrounds with various family wealth, but now they are all studying to attain their own job and social class.

The citizens of Almaty are other important stakeholders to us. They live in one of the fastest-growing cities (urban) in the southern part of the country. They use a lot of energy throughout the year (interests), especially during hot and cold months. Their motives, to move into Almaty, we can assume was to attain a well-paying job (possibly in manufacturing). Their social class is also important because there are sectors of the city that are much wealthier than others. They also live in an area where they are exposed to a decent amount of air pollution (the climate).

Another stakeholder will be the manufacturer. Depending on if our manufacturer will be in Kazakhstan, or in another country will affect the attributes of this stakeholder. For now, let’s say it is a manufacturer in Kazakhstan. Their interests are a unique attribute because they will mostly be interested in making the most money they can. Their motives are also therefore unique because they might not see the same end game we see; they will only see the product or innovation leave their factory. Their personality traits are also important because they may be set on doing things a certain way, and we may have to convince them otherwise (or vice versa). The benefits sought are also important because again they may have a different goal than us. The market density is important because we will be entering an already busy market.

  1. Identify three ways in which you will validate your project concept, technology, usability, and business model.

Once we have a concept/technology for our project, we will validate it by getting a paper published about it. Through academic papers, we can establish our concepts in a professional manner, and we make sure that we benefit the scientific community through what we will accomplish. To measure our impact, we will collect a lot of data from our product in use in Almaty to have numbers to support its success (or failure). Depending on the product, we can also try to validate it by intelligently translating it to other parts of Kazakhstan (if applicable). To measure that, we can collect data on the effects of that issue before our innovation, and hopefully the improvements on that issue after. When it comes to the final phase (when our product is approved by the public), we will implement a suite of systems and innovations around the product to ensure its long-term establishment.

  1. Give three examples of something very interesting you learned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you.

Something very interesting I learned, more like observed, from a friend, is how converts from faith to faith can be very critical for their old faith, even though, in some cases, they’ve spent more than 20 years in that faith, fervently defending its concepts and ideologies. Another thing I saw, is the typical experience they go through: the feeling of enlightenment and being saved from a faulty belief. A very important concept someone taught me was using friendships, not only for fun but to grow as a person. You make friends with people that benefit you and you benefit them in some way or another.

Bishoy Youhana

Blog post 3

  1. Top 20 questions team needs to answer to advance the venture forward. Categorize.



  1. What are the best ways of approaching sustainability goals?
  2. Can this project be implemented in other countries?
  3. Is this a long term solution to the problems we are currently facing?
  4. Will this project inspire similar initiatives/be recreated by other people?
  5. Is developing smart technology environmentally detrimental?
  6. How do we make the project sustainable?
  7. Will this project lead to lasting change?


  1. How big is the impact?
  2. Is change even possible without government help?
  3. Are the problems we are addressing a priority?
  4. What issues do they see that need to be solved?
  5. Will our solutions impact their market?
  6. Are we doing just as much harm as good?
  7. Do we have the depth to really make a difference?
  8. Are we inhibiting domestic social entrepreneurship?


  1. What kinds of partners are we looking for?
  2. Will culture halt our progress?
  3. What social barriers will inhibit our project?
  4. How can we affect different kinds of people?
  5. Is there a technology education and access gap?


  1. Develop and Visualize the Theory of Change (Logic Model) for your venture.


  • 2-3 Publications 
    • Smart City Innovations
      • Engineering for Change
    • How smart innovations are integrated in cities
      • Discuss the impact of smart technology on cities 
        • The benefits, possible cons, social acceptance, cultural impacts, etc
        • Longevity of the device (how long does it stay relevant and impactful
    • How smart cities grow and adapt
      • Discuss the interaction between people and technology
        • How it affects daily life, city efficiency, etc
  • 3 practical products/solutions that we plan to test and potentially deploy to impact people in Almaty.


  • Publications allow for expanded outreach
    • More people on board with implementing smart technology in cities brings more awareness to the power and potential these solutions hold
      • Inspires others cities to implement them based on existing statistics that are included in the publications
  • A viable device that will improve human life in Almaty but can be applied generally to other growing cities





  • Develop an (2-3) MVPs (minimum viable product) or solutions to address real issues in Almaty.
  • Identify focus groups to test products on.
    • Record how the product was perceived by the people
  • Gather data to predict the projected impact our products would have.
  • Propose future publication titles
    • How our products were designed and perceived
    • Potential ways to avoid future mistakes and further the cause of the project.
  • Establishing what not to do for future teams.


  • Grow relations with partners in Kazakhstan.
  • Spur entrepreneurial spirit in the market.
  • Establish solutions to address problems. 
  • Improve (established goal)


  1. Develop an M&E plan for your venture.
    1. Clearly list all assumptions
      1. We will be able to go and do fieldwork in Kazakhstan 
      2. Our 2-3 publications will be accepted 
      3. Our product will be well-received 
      4. Our partners at KazNU will be able to help us implement the innovation and make it widespread 
      5. Our product will be implemented and used sustainably
    2. Identify short-term and long-term success metrics
      1. Short term:
        1. Number of journals and papers published/in conferences 
        2. Create prototypes 
      2. Long term: 
        1. Focus on one innovation and create a sustainable product that can be used by all residents in Almaty 
    3. (Optional) identify specific methods to measure the metrics
      1. Number of publications
      2. Number of innovations that are generally accepted by the people in Almaty 

Bishoy Youhana


Blog post #2

Give three compelling examples of how cultural issues affect your project.

In Kazakh culture, it is not imperative to arrive on time; however, being more than 30 minutes late will be portrayed as disrespectful. This concept is spread throughout many countries and causes failures in communication between teams, leading to delayed meetings and procedures. Our time in Kazakhstan will be limited and this ideology will waste our time and decrease the impact we leave on the community in Kazakhstan. In some countries, like Egypt and India, independent devices in the streets can be seen as a lucrative object and become a target for theft. Incidents like these would cause sensors planted for data monitoring and collection would be stolen and possibly sold in the black market. It would not be practical to have these items stolen all of the time. In Kazakhstan, the official language is Kazakh; however, the language most spoken by the people in Russian. While Russian was the language of teaching at schools and universities, now it is Kazakh. This will cause a problem since we will be using Kazakh to communicate, but a lot of people will be speaking Russian. All of these issues should be taken into account when implementing a solution or navigating our way to one.

Have you experienced or observed any of these social situations at home? Describe at least three such situations.

At home (Egypt), we had the theft issue. For example, a few years ago, there were an epidemic of tire theft, cheap and expensive tires were being stolen daily. This issue reflects on how insecure it would be to plant devices on the streets as their faith is predictable. The only way this problem was somewhat resolved was by having police cars roaming the streets all night and putting light sources for rural streets. In Egypt, the culture is very conservative and resistant to change. Introducing a new concept or way of life would be very difficult to implement in the day’s structure; for example, 15 years ago, the idea of converting your car from using gasoline to using natural gas was introduced as a solution to high gasoline prices, and till this day, people are very hesitant to perform this conversion. Reluctance to change is cancer to our smart cities project since the solutions that will be implemented will be new and different, aiming at impact. In our culture, engineering is seen as a profession for men only, so in a graduating class of 200 mechanical engineers, only 7 would be women. This stereotype prevents many women from aspiring to study smart technologies and leaves a significant portion of the population uneducated to the fields of smart technologies. To implement change, a diverse workforce is needed and misconceptions like these prevent us from reaching this desired state. This workforce is crucial to building smart technologies and is very important to the contribution of perspective and ideas.

Give three examples of cultural practices that can be leveraged to addressed community/market problems

The sharing and co-operative elements in some cultures can be harvested to manifest a market where ideas are being shared and contributed to by everyone. A common example would be when a mobile phone store opens, another one opens beside it. This way they bring customers to each other and they share ideas with each other. A culture like this one usually has everyone connected with each other, so basically, by knowing a few people, you will probably be able to get to anyone you need. This can be leveraged when we begin to implement our solutions. Implementing them requires a lot of country-related logistics that need locals who work in the proper area of expertise. Another way is data and feedback collection; spreading a survey link would very simple and effective for future improvements in our innovations. Marketing a product or idea can also be done easily since the word is spread effectively. It is definitely more influential to hear about something from someone, rather than watching a commercial or reading a flyer. Also, the youth in such areas tend to be very proactive about improving their conditions and implementing new and smart technologies that reduce the inefficiencies they have every day. All of these advantages can be used to spread information about a product and how to use it, so it is used widely and correctly.


Post by Bishoy Youhana