Engineering students solving real-world problems

Katie Maynard-Cresswell from Engineers Without Borders
Engineering courses

Birmingham City University

Mechanical Engineering students took part in a workshop led by Katie Maynard-Cresswell, a guest speaker from the London charity and NGO - Engineers Without Borders. She introduced students to the organisation’s ‘Engineering for People Design Challenge’, and encouraged them to think about how engineering can solve a range of real problems.

The challenge, now embedded into the undergraduate curriculum, is an opportunity for students to use their skills for implementing solutions aimed at improving lives. The competition process encourages students to learn and practice the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of engineering. It is also designed to refine and develop students’ skills and engineering credentials through taking their learning outside of the classroom and into a context where the projects help people.

Katie highlighted the opportunity the competition offers students to engage real-world problem solving: “It’s incredibly important for students to work in the field since ultimately that’s what they’ll be doing in life post-graduation. Projects like this develop their problem-solving skills and, most importantly, their sense of judgement.”

Henry Dobinson, a student working on this challenge said: “This competition is a real location and a real problem. It gives the project authenticity, and boosts our interest – there is a real reason for the work we’re doing.”

This year the challenge is to improve the infrastructure and life quality for people in Lobitos, Peru. The former has fallen into disrepair following a military coup in the late 1960s and students were invited to consider ideas to develop Lobitos down a regenerative and sustainable path. The workshop’s brainstorming session tackled problems ranging from water and sanitation to energy and the environment.

Five teams from Birmingham City University will be selected by their tutors for a national review at the end of the when they will put their proposals forward. One of these teams will be nominated for the national finals. The students have a lot to live up to since a team from the University won the national competition two years ago.

The programme leader for Mechanical Engineering, Tony Hayward commented: “Opportunities like this are very important for developing students’ skills since the modules on this course are theoretical, whereas this challenge addresses the social and global aspects of engineering”.

The overall competition winners will go on a 10 day trip to Mexico to see the impact of the technology that they designed, while the runner-up prizes include £150 academic bursaries.

Find out more about the challenge:

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