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How the ICE QUEST scholarships helped me explore the Middle East

26 October 2022

Dylan Atkinson shares his experiences travelling through the region and encourages others to check out this helpful scholarship programme.

How the ICE QUEST scholarships helped me explore the Middle East
Dylan found ways to extend his stay in the region, gaining valuable experience in the process. Image credit: Dylan Atkinson

In the past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Middle East twice to see some major civil engineering projects.

This was possible through the generosity of people in the industry, my own engineering curiosity, and the ICE QUEST scholarship programme.

Did you know?

ICE QUEST scholarships provide engineers financial support for career development.

A limited number of scholarships are awarded each year.

Each scholarship has its own entry requirements, but typically, the application process includes written answers to questions about your career, a sponsor statement, and an interview.

View the list of scholarships available

I was unsuccessful in my first scholarship application but have since been successful when applying for the QUEST Technician and QUEST Travel scholarships. So don’t give up!

Seeking to diversify my engineering experience

Dylan Atkinson in front of Burj Khalifa

Dylan in front of the Burj Khalifa

I was awarded the QUEST Technician scholarship from the ICE in 2018.

This provided me with financial support and motivation to work towards the goals I’d stated in my scholarship application.

One of these goals was to diversify my engineering experience by visiting projects in a country outside of the UK.

This goal formed as a result of attending ICE’s ‘Shaping a digital world conference’ in 2017, where I learned that a wide range of experience helps to drive innovation.

Reaching new heights in Dubai

In March 2020 an opportunity arose for me to extend a holiday in Dubai to work with Mace Construction for a week, managing the development of high-rise buildings in the Opera District.

On the very first morning, I was lifted in a crane to the top of a 30+ storey building. A Monday morning at work I will never forget!

I spent most of my week with the project management team working on the Act 1 | Act 2 construction, the building I was lifted to the top of.

I took part in site walkovers and attended design and commercial meetings with Indian design consultancy, Arch Group, and contractor, China State Construction.

I also visited the other major sites in the Opera District, testing my nerves as I climbed scaffold ladders at 60+ storeys high!

Visiting record-breaking structures

OneZabeel Building in Dubai
One Za'abeel building in Dubai. Image credit: Dylan Atkinson

Another site I visited was the One Za'abeel building.

Two towers standing at 304m and 241m tall that are linked by a 225m long steel glass structure, 125m above ground level.

This is the longest cantilever in the world and has the added complication of straddling a six-lane carriageway.

This was being delivered by Ithra, Mace, Alec and WSP as an energy efficient building to Leadership Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.

I walked over the site with Mace’s logistical lead and was educated about the planning and logistics required to ensure smooth running of such a major project.

Much experience to gain in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain

Abu Dhabi NHM 2022
Construction of a Natural History Museum in Abu Dhabi. Image credit: Dylan Atkinson

In January 2022, I found myself once more in a position where I could extend a holiday in the Middle East.

This time with ByrneLooby, a geotechnical and maritime consultant.

I visited a site in the early stages of construction of a proposed Natural History Museum in Abu Dhabi. I went with a resident engineer and was present during pile installation.

In Bahrain, I visited the head ByrneLooby office in the Middle East and visited three sites.

The first was the construction of a beach for a hotel development.

Another was the construction site of a canal that connected the sea to the back of houses, providing homeowners with their own personal marina in their back garden.

Bahrain Canal sheet piles
Construction of canal in Bahrain. Image credit: Dylan Atkinson

The last site was a recently completed green park with ponds. We visited this site to see how a similar park could be replicated within land that a Sheik owned, with the view to provide a habitat and improve biodiversity in the area.

Looking back, looking forward

These experiences gave me insight into civil engineering outside of the UK and introduced me to many new contacts.

Also, I believe they gave me an edge in the successful application for the ICE QUEST Travel scholarship in 2020.

I’ve created a tour of my visits to the Middle East using a 360° camera and Kuula software.

View the tour

In the summer of 2023, I will be developing this tour to include images from my trips funded by the travel scholarship, where I plan to visit construction sites across Asia.

I would encourage everyone to explore the list of scholarships, and to either apply or encourage someone else to do so.

Thank you to the teams at Mace Construction and ByrneLooby for taking the time to accommodate me and answer my questions.

And a big thank you to Chris, Cora, Holly and Lockie. It wouldn’t have happened without your generosity!

Learn about the ICE QUEST scholarships

There are six annual QUEST awards, each with their own purpose and entry requirements.

Find the scholarship for you
  • Dylan Atkinson, assistant civil engineer at WSP (UK)