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Sun September 26 2021

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Engineers Without Borders launches student challenge

7 Sep Engineers Without Borders UK is collaborating with partners in South Africa and Australia to encourage students to investigate engineering challenges faced by Indigenous people in Far North Queensland.

image courtesy of CfaT
image courtesy of CfaT

The 11th Engineering for People Design Challenge is taking place in partnership with Engineers Without Borders South Africa and the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT), Australia.

The Engineering for People Design Challenge encourages undergraduates to broaden their awareness of the social, environmental and economic implications of their engineering solutions. Now in its eleventh year, the Design Challenge has reached over 50,000 undergraduate students across South Africa, UK, Ireland and the USA to date. The 2021/22 Challenge will be delivered to 48 institutions in the UK, USA and South Africa.

CfAT, a not-for-profit organisation led by Indigenous people, was established in 1980 to research, design, develop and build capacity in appropriate technologies and deliver technical training to Indigenous peoples living in remote and off-grid communities.

By investigating the key challenge areas such as energy, food security and waste management, students are encouraged to consider the ongoing impacts of colonisation and Indigenous conservation efforts to maintain the concepts of ‘country and culture’. Areas explored include preserving ancient knowledge systems, preventing wildfires and protecting biodiversity and unique ecosystems, whilst also noting the link between engineering design, ‘appropriate technology’ and people’s ability to survive, thrive and flourish in remote landscapes.

Academics from each institution will review their students’ submissions with the top five from each university going forward to be judged by industry volunteers. The best team from each participating university will then be invited to present their solutions at the grand finals in a bid to win the grand prize of an educational bursary. The runner-up and the ‘People's Prize’ winners will also receive an educational bursary to share between them.

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Peter Renehan, CEO of CfAT, said: “Our people, the Aboriginal Australian people, are the proud custodians of one of the oldest continuous living cultures on the planet. We are the traditional owners of this continent and our heritage spans hundreds of Indigenous First Nations, language groups and geographies each with its own unique mixture of cultures, languages and intricate ancient knowledge systems.

“The Engineering for People Design Challenge sets the stage for the challenges we face in returning to our traditional lands to live on them, protect them and maintain our culture while creating a sustainable economic future for our people in a globalised world.”

Emma Crichton, head of engineering at Engineers Without Borders UK, said: “Our real-life design project provides a platform for students to truly understand how to develop engineering skills with a globally responsible mindset and place people at the heart of their designs.

“To learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities' relationship to their land and sea is an incredible chance to contextualise the meaning and practice of globally responsible engineering, learn deeply about our shared history and how equitable approaches and valuing people's participation in the process of engineering is absolutely critical to achieving a safe and just world.”

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