Editor’s comment: How to be an engineer – and stay true to yourself…
03 August 2022
Engineers Without Borders Engineering for People Design Challenge 2021_22 Grand Finals
Last month, I attended the Grand Finals of Engineers Without Borders’ Engineering for People Design Challenge at PEARL, UCL in Dagenham. NGO, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) runs programmes that target engineering students, aiming to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering.
A version of this editorial leader was originally featured in the August 2022 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.
EWB’s goal is to shift the culture in the engineering sector to ensure a safe and just future for all. This is important, because as I’ve often said here in EPDT, engineers must ultimately solve the problems and grand challenges facing society, from addressing climate change, harnessing renewable energy and providing universal access to clean drinking water, to restoring & improving urban infrastructure and maximising the benefits of robotics & AI for all…
Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT
During a formative time in an undergraduate student’s education and life, EWB’s Engineering for People Design Challenge encourages them to broaden their awareness of the social, environmental and economic implications of the engineering solutions they work on. Each year, EWB works with a different programme partner to create a real-world design brief based on real-world problems that people are facing, framed around the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This year’s programme partner is the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT), an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander-controlled NGO which supports indigenous people in regional & remote Australia with culturally approriate technology that helps them live and thrive sustainably, while maintaining their relationship with Country.
From the 8,000 students who participated in this year’s Design Challenge across the UK & Ireland, the top 36 teams were invited to join the Grand Finals, where they pitched their ideas to this year’s judges. This process whittled the teams down to a final six, which then presented to an audience of 150 who attended the event, in addition to the judging panel, which included: Chair of the EWB UK Board of Trustees & Chief Executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, Jon Prichard; Dawn Bonfield MBE, Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence at King’s College London & Past President of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES); and EWB UK Trustee, Akaraseth Puranasamriddhi, Researcher in Climate Risk & Sustainable Finance at the University of Cambridge & Research Affiliate in Energy Access at University College London.
Engineers Without Borders logo
In addition to awarding first and second prizes, the competition also included a public vote: the People’s Prize. This provided all 36 teams with the opportunity to promote their idea across their networks, with almost 4,000 votes cast in total. This year’s People’s Prize was awarded to the University of the West of England team for their design, ‘Evaporative Cooling Barrel’, gaining 565 votes.
Second prize was awarded to University of Strathclyde for their design, ‘Rammed Earth Housing’, designed to be constructed with a reusable, prefabricated kit that can be easily transported. The judges commented on the acknowledgement of transportability and opportunities for reuse, and how the team combined the availability of local labour and local resources effectively.
First prize went to University College Dublin, who impressed the judges with their concept, ‘Tapatapment; a water filtration unit designed for water taps, created from bamboo shoots’. The judges felt the team demonstrated a clear understanding of local needs and, with regards to the environmental context, the inclusion of a water meter was a clever addition to help reduce consumption in the area. The use of natural and waste materials was also a novel idea that would reduce environmental impact.
Throughout the day, we also heard from the CEO and Regional Manager of this year’s programme partner, CfAT, Peter Renehan and Andre Grant, respectively, who talked about the work CfAT does and the challenges it addresses. Meanwhile, academics who attended alongside their student teams joined a workshop to explore next year’s design brief, developed in partnership with Govan Community Project, which supports the diverse communities in its local area, as well as refugees and people seeking asylum all over Glasgow.
Olivia Sweeney, previously Ethical Buyer for Aroma Chemicals at Lush
We also heard from Olivia Sweeney, a chemical engineer (formerly of cosmetics firm, Lush and now working for sustainability consultancy, Resource Futures), Black & Green Ambassador (a Bristol-based social justice programme, focused on diversity, equality & environmental issues), and a featured engineer in the Royal Academy of Engineering’s This Is Engineering campaign, who delivered an inspiring and thought-provoking keynote entitled: ‘How to be an Ethical, Moral, Impactful, Just, Green, Sustainable, Principled, Inclusive, Responsible Engineer (Everything I know about being an engineer and staying true to yourself)’.
Attending my second Engineering for People Design Challenge Grand Finals, I once again found it an inspirational experience – a view shared by Ian Mayrs of UCD’s winning team, when I talked to him about his experience of the competition. He highlighted the value of learning that, as an engineer, you’re designing for people, with often diverse and individual needs. Meanwhile, John Kraus, EWB UK CEO, told me how the competition – the most wide-reaching of EWB’s programmes – was about trying to embed the principles of sustainability and responsibility into the whole cohort, promoting the idea that engineering should serve people and the planet. Bravo!
EPDT August 2022 cover image
EPDT's August 2022 issue also contains features on Displays technologies and Medical applications. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month…
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