Engineering Solutions to Real World Problems – UWE Project Week 2020

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It’s Project Week here at UWE Bristol and 348 first-year student engineers are taking part in an Engineering for People Design Challenge, tackling real-life issues in Peru.

Both on a global and local scale, we are facing challenges that require urgent action. Engineering plays a key role in everyday life and our response to address current and future challenges. By participating in the Engineering for People Design Challenge developed by Engineers Without Borders, our students are investing their skills and talent to benefit the planet and its people.

The Design Challenge

This year’s challenge focusses on two neighbouring communities on the northern coast of Peru – Lobitos and Piedritas. Students will explore and tackle issues shared by local people living in these areas, focusing on one or more of the 8 challenge areas identified: Built Environment, Water, Waste, Food, Sanitation, Energy, Transport and Digital. Students are encouraged to use the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for the design challenge to help them explore and understand these issues from both a local and global perspective.

What’s unique about our approach to teaching design and project management is that we give our students a real-life context to work on. They get to develop design ideas that address environmental and social issues faced by communities across the globe. 

Engineers Without Borders has been instrumental in helping us integrate sustainability into our engineering curriculum. It’s always exciting to see students give their all during Project Week to come up with great designs. More importantly, they complete their projects feeling inspired to do well in their studies and to use their engineering skills to make a positive impact around them.

Maryam M. Lamere, Project Week Coordinator

Why Project Week?

This week-long challenge plays a central role in UWE Bristol’s Engineering Practise module, part of our Integrated Learning Framework focussed around project-based learning. Students are guided through the challenges using the new Innovation and Design Toolkit designed by Bristol-based software company Newicon. The toolkit helps students explore and define real human-centred problems and rapidly move through iterative solutions and visual prototypes to select the best solution.

The Engineers Without Borders Design Challenge represents everything that is good and positive about Engineering and how Design and Engineering can be used to improve our environment and the life of the people that live in it.

Technology has clearly caused much damage to our world and it is great that Engineering at UWE is now focussing on directing efforts towards using Technology to improve our world and its environment. The Engineers Without Borders Design Challenge is an important first step in reminding Student Engineers of their important role in society.

Dedicating a whole week of their first year studies to focus on this should remind them how important it is.

Dr David Richardson, co-module leader for Engineering Practice

What’s involved?

Project week looks a little different this year (as with most things it has moved online during the current pandemic) but module leads Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Dr David Richardson and organiser of project week, Maryam Lamere, have put together a full programme of engaging online workshops, exercises and presentations to keep students engaged and focused throughout the challenge.

To kick things off this week students will hear from Dr Lisa Brodie, Head of the Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics. Throughout the week they will also have access to videos of inspirational speakers from around the globe, including Felipe Gomez del Campo (CEO FGC Plasma Solutions), Brittany Harris (CEO, Co-Founder Qualis Flow), UWE Robotics alumni Silas Adekunle (CEO, Co-Founder ReachRobotics Ltd, Awari, R.I) and current UWE final-year student engineer Henry James (Winner of STEM Telegraph Innovation Award).

As part of the design challenge, students at UWE will have the opportunity to compete against universities around the globe for their chance to be awarded Engineering for People Design Challenge Winner! We’ll be following their progress throughout the week so stay tuned for more exciting news about UWE Project Week 2020.

It’s been an interesting year to welcome our 348 first year student engineers to both a new curriculum and a new Engineering School here at UWE Bristol! They have had a lot to contend with, but we have been so impressed to see their design thinking coming along. I think that’s a lot to do with the ease of using the Innovation and Design Thinking kit, taking away the fear of failure and seeing engineering as a creative process aiming to make a difference in the world. We can’t wait to see the designs they come up with this week!

Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, co-module leader for Engineering Practice

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