Most students don’t think about changing the world while studying an undergraduate course - that’s just what Edwina Knevett and Zoe Sellers set out to investigate when they joined Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a charity that helps link engineers with communities across the world.
Edwina learned about the program during the first year of her Engineering course when she took part in the EWB Design Challenge.
“We decided to get involved with Engineers Without Borders as it redefines engineering as a global movement for social change." “The EWB Design Summit taught us that engineering is a community-focused profession that has the capacity to promote sustainability and development.”
When the opportunity arose to work with EWB again in December 2018, this time in Cambodia, Edwina jumped at the chance.
“The first few days, we attended orientation in Phnom Penh with other people from various locations. We all learned about humanitarian engineering and Cambodian culture. Humanitarian Engineering puts people and community needs first so instead of problem solving through engineering, you build upon the strength of the community with an engineering skillset.”
Edwina and Zoe spent most of their time in Kratie Province in a homestay. They interviewed community members about what their most urgent needs were and developed a solution, in this case low-cost sanitary pads using bamboo leaves as a base material to create a cotton-type fabric.
EWB aims to achieve long-terms solutions in four areas: clean water, sanitation and hygiene; appropriate housing; clean energy; and digital access. Problem solving is key to Engineering, but that’s not the only appeal to participants.
“We love that EWB emphasises that at the heart of engineering is not maths or physics, but people.”
The summit was more about student learning than delivering a real product, but the value gained by both the community and the participants is immeasurable. Once EWB alumni start their career, they can contribute even further by doing research or volunteering to put their ideas into practice.
Studying with the School of Engineering allowed Edwina to combine her love of physics and maths into one pursuit. She’s had many opportunities outside of her degree including EWB and representing the School as part of the STEM Outreach Team and the University as a Student Ambassador.
“These opportunities have provided a great way to further myself outside my academic studies. I have a strong passion about encouraging young girls and women to pursue STEM and I like being able to do that through the STEM Outreach Team and as a Student Ambassador.”
“Coming to Uni, I’ve found a great group of like-minded people who have similar passions and goals. At school I didn’t know any other girls who wanted to study engineering but at UTAS I was able to find people like me. These opportunities have provided a great way to further myself outside my academic studies [and] I have a strong passion about encouraging young girls and women."
“I’m excited by the many different ways that my future career could go, anything from doing engineering for social change or working in the aerospace industry.”
While Zoe also enjoyed maths, practical design was high on her list of interests making a degree in Engineering a no brainer. But it’s not only the world-class course offerings and student enrichment opportunities that kept her there.
“I chose engineering at UTAS...because of how inclusive and social the faculty is, which has really helped to make my first year at university as easy and enjoyable as possible.”
Find out more about studying Engineering here.