Albert Ko, The Humanitarian Engineer

Innovation and Education

Albert is an experienced engineer, accomplished entrepreneur, innovative educator, and a well-respected humanitarian worker. His research interests include artificial intelligence, robot-assisted search and rescue systems, humanitarian technologies, and rural water and sanitation systems.

In 2017, Albert joined Lingnan University and developed Hong Kong’s first liberal arts entrepreneurship education program. The Programme is benefiting over 2500 students and community members every year. Albert teaches “Policy and Technology for Rural Sustainability” and “Humanitarian Entrepreneurship for Global Grand Challenges”. His courses, which emphasize team teaching and interdisciplinary learning, aim to stimulate students to apply design and innovation methods to solving social and humanitarian problems.

Albert is the Director of Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative, the only campus-wide program designed to support all innovation and entrepreneurship activities in Lingnan. He is also the Director of Service-Learning, overseeing all S-L programs in the University.

Where The Journey Begins?

Instead of diving into the ocean of advanced technology that most engineers crave, Albert shared with us his belief that most of the existing technologies can already solve most of the problems these developing countries were facing, but the true problem he saw was the deprived rights of these people in accessing basic use of mechanic and technologies

Back in 2000, Albert became the first Hong Kong engineer to join Medecins Sans Frontiers’ field missions. He volunteered in South Sudan during the civil war, Uzbekistan during 911, Indonesia during the South Asia Tsunami, Pakistan during the Kashmir earthquake, and Sichuan during the Wenchuan earthquake.

The Epiphany Of This Journey

Traveled to over 100 cities in 25 countries, Albert lived a life resembling movie scenes. The experience he had during his time in these third-world countries provided him with a new perspective to look into engineering. He believes that what we lack in this world is the common right to access engineering knowledge and utilize it to create a better living environment.

Realizing the more ones could do meaning the more ones could give, Albert as a resourceful engineer picked up his mission to help people and step on the path to fight poverty and inequality around the world using what he best of, humanitarian technologies.

Albert unfolded an impactful sharing that opened the eyes of HKUST students to see the beauty of humanitarian technologies in the sharing session. Albert walked through the adventurous and amazing journey he had with Médecins Sans Frontières / MSF and 香港紅十字會 Hong Kong Red Cross, traveling to the warzone area of Pakistan, undeveloped village Sudan and some other foreign developing countries to improve their sanitation and quality of life during a civil war. The unique experiencing Albert gained in these tours has ignited him the brand new perspective to look into the meaning and purpose of an engineer.  

Instead of diving into the ocean of advanced technology that most engineers crave, Albert also shared his belief that most of the existing technologies can already solve most of the problems these developing countries were facing, but the true problem he saw was the deprived rights of these people in accessing basic use of mechanics and technologies.

Realizing the more ones could do meaning the more ones could give, Albert as a resourceful engineer picked up his mission to help people and step on the path to fight poverty and inequality around the world using what he best of, humanitarian technologies. By living a life that basically composed of movie scenes, the perspective Albert developed throughout the experience created a revolutionary path for an engineer that sees the world through the lens of empathy and humanness.

A Reads of Inspiration 

Books are often considered an escape of people to let one’s imagination go wild. In this case, Albert found himself a special connection with the wuxia novels by Jin Yong. The minimalism and humbleness of the knights and warriors in the story are the major inspiration for Albert growing up. Hoping to inspire more people to understand and appreciate the beauty of unselfishness and chivalry, Albert recommended Jin Yong’s novel for everyone that teaches empathy and the spirit of the knight. 

Reality could be an inspiration for Albert too. Reading newspapers, the COVID-19 is spreading worldwide, everyone is wearing masks and death tolls were high in Hong Kong. Since deaf students have learning difficulties in reading lips through masks, Albert contacted local mask factories and designed a transparent mask for reading lips while protecting students and teachers. After being distributed to schools, SEN students are now able to read teachers' faces. High death tolls in a sudden outbreak bring the coffin shortage in Hong Kong, so Albert collaborates with a local publisher and started a project for providing paper coffins faster and cheaper.


Students takeaways

Mr. Albert is a very interesting person who has had a lot of experiences up to this point in life. I loved his passion for helping the underprivileged. He went out of his way, risking his life, to make sure that poorer areas had proper latrines and good sanitary conduct. It was truly a courageous and humble act from him. It was amazing how you managed to be on calm terms of both ends too. It’s not everyday that I get to hear about war-related stories in this current era of relative peace. I also like the lesson of the importance of knowing who to ask or who to talk to. For example, how he asked mothers more than fathers regarding making changes in their sanitation habits. Albert showed innovation, creativity and passion. He is truly an inspiration to many. I wish him luck in future endeavors. #grit #service

Joevent Lawrance - Student from ENTR1001

So many valuable lessons to take away from this session! Thank you Albert for sharing your humanitarian projects and the journey that has led to your success. It was interesting to hear about your time in Sudan (and other places) and how your team managed to improve the sanitation and quality of life during a civil war where you had to rebuild latrines that were bombed and maintain amiable relationships between opposing parties of the war. As previously mentioned, there were so many valuable insights from this talk. However, his message that the technology and knowledge currently available is more than sufficient to resolve issues of poverty and inequality left the greatest impression for me. What's most important right now is the willingness for people to coordinate and address humanitarian issues, and Albert's contribution and impact to others in need exemplifies the magnitude of humanitarian assistance that could be achieved if one stays #dedicated and #passionate.

Queenie Lai - Student from ENTR 1001 

Find out more about the visual record of this class on MIRO:

https://miro.com/app/board/uXjVO7nhxrs=/?fbclid=IwAR3NHPJT69SF-Rld7kkAqo_xJCUyIam8kvJejUHuKy-AQI0t5dmhcCiibPM

Read more on how student think after the session:

https://www.facebook.com/entruhkust/posts/1097809570780263/

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