Students engineer solutions for remote villages

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Students engineer solutions for remote villages

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Mechanical Engineering students Emily Echarri, 22, and Nick Jays, 21, recently returned from 15-day field trips as part of the Engineers Without Borders Design Summit.

2 May 2017

Two USC Mechanical Engineering students have travelled to remote villages in Nepal and India to see how ‘simple’ engineering solutions can make a powerful difference to those living in developing communities.  

Emily Echarri, 22, and Nick Jays, 21, recently returned from 15-day field trips as part of the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Design Summit, which provides students with experiences in humanitarian engineering.

Emily, who travelled to India, and Nick, who travelled to Nepal, were among groups of about 40 Australian students who engaged in workshops, community homestays and a design challenge to help overcome challenges identified by remote villagers.

The final-year students had their interest in humanitarian engineering sparked by participating in several other EWB projects facilitated by USC during their degrees.

Their travels were aided by funding from the Rotary Club of Nambour.

Emily said working with residents of a small village in the Tamil Nadu region to find design solutions to local problems had been a highlight of her trip.

“In interviewing the locals, we found out that the women were using their saris as pouches to collect fruit and vegetables in the fields, and this wasn’t very efficient,” she said. “It was also a problem for the younger women, who are starting to wear more Western clothing.

“My team and I came up with the ‘belt bag’ – it was a simple, adaptable device made from rope and rice bags that they could attach to themselves to collect produce.

“We showed the villagers the device at a presentation, and the response was incredible. It opened my eyes to how really simple engineering solutions can make a huge difference.”

Nick worked in a community in the Tindobate region of Nepal, and said the program gave him a greater appreciation for how design solutions could be used in a humanitarian setting.

“We learnt a lot about designing with appropriate technology using a human-centred approach,” he said. “The solutions engineers come up with need to be simple and manageable at the local level, and empower the communities.

“It was great to discover more about how the skills and knowledge I’ve built up in my engineering degree could make a positive impact.”

— Gen Kennedy

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