6,500 engineering undergraduates to compete in real-world problem-solving challenge

11 October 2018

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Introducing the 2018 to 2019 launch of the Engineering for People Design Challenge: a UK and Ireland-wide University-based competition that involves more than 6,500 engineering undergraduates – and helps them to develop their problem-solving skills in real-world issues.

Said Katie Cresswell-Maynard, chief executive of the programme’s organisers, Engineers Without Borders (a charity and non-profit organisation): “With the return of students to their universities, we are launching the latest competition focused on creating a context for engineering students to work within, so the engineers of the future become skilled at identifying problems as well as solving them.

“This gives them the opportunity to learn and practice the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of engineering design.”

The competition is unique in that it is embedded in the curriculum of the participating universities. Engineers Without Borders UK, along with its partner Prakti, develop a set of materials centred on a resource-constrained environment. This builds a story about a community that is impeded in its progress by challenges around water, sanitation, transport, digital infrastructure, waste management, and so on.

Such a set of materials (hosted online at www.engineering-for-people.com) creates a launchpad for the students to dig deeper and identify a problem – for which they can create an engineering intervention.

“What’s crucial to note,” added Katie, “is that despite the fact that the environment we ask the students to focus on has resource challenges and lacks basic infrastructure, we aren’t asking them to only think about addressing the basics of poverty alleviation.

“We ask the students to think beyond that and to take an aspirational mindset into the challenge. For example, the 2018 to 2019 challenge is focused on the rural community of Tamil Nadu in India. The challenge is to go beyond addressing basic needs and create solutions that make rural living in this part of India as attractive as urban living.”

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

The Engineering for People Design Challenge is taken on by the universities in different ways. Some universities tackle the challenge over the course of a couple of weeks, while others run a module for one or two terms. At the end of the module, each university chooses five teams to submit an online report on their project (the portal opens on 30th January and closes on 30th April).

Afterwards, the reports are whittled down to the top 36, who are then invited to the Grand Finals, held annually in June. At the Grand Finals, the teams are further reduced until the top 6 have the chance to pitch their idea to an audience of roughly 200 people, including the judges and fellow participants.

To further quote Katie Cresswell-Maynard: “An important point is that it’s not too late for universities to get involved in this year’s competition.

“We provide support for academic staff and can even arrange for them to work with academics from other universities to implement the challenge. Plus, we can visit the students and provide a lecture or a workshop to really bring the competition to life.”

For more information, including on entering the challenge, visit www.engineering-for-people.com, email challenge@ewb-uk.org or call 0203 7525820.

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