The annual Engineering for People Design Challenge as well as the Inspiring and Building Community Leaders programmes kicked off earlier this year. The competition, now in its 10th year, is a year-long collaboration between Engineers Without Borders South Africa (EWB-SA), Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK), Electrocomponents and other partners. Electrocomponents is based in the UK and will be supporting EWB-SA locally through its subsidiary, RS Components SA.
The main objective behind this innovative collaboration is to encourage university students to broaden their awareness of the social, environmental and economic implications of their engineering solutions. The initiative provides an opportunity for these students to develop solutions that could make a positive difference to communities and individuals around the world. More than 7000 first- and second-year university engineering students, spanning three continents, are competing this year to find practicable ways to improve the livelihoods of people, covering sustainable waste management, energy, food and water supply, digital communications and transport infrastructure.
Each participating university will use its academics to select the best teams to represent their institution. These teams will then showcase their solutions in a bid to win a cash prize. The winners, runners up and People’s Prize winners will also receive maker kits sponsored by RS Components.
This year’s Engineering for People Design Challenge is focused on Lobitos and Piedritas which are neighbouring communities on the northern coast of Peru. Tourism is a growing economic opportunity for this arid region, due to the beneficial conditions for sports such as surfing. However, doing this sustainably to protect the local natural habitat and including the local community in the economic benefit, is not without challenge. Since early this year, the Covid-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on daily life.
Students are encouraged to investigate the challenges highlighted in the Design Challenge brief by finding out how Lobitos and Piedritas are changing and identifying how engineering design can improve the ability of the local people to survive and thrive, while considering the long-term consequences of tourism and the Covid-19 pandemic. To prepare and inspire students to invest their skills and talent to benefit people and the planet, Engineers Without Borders partnered with EcoSwell to create this design brief in early 2020. EcoSwell and other NGOs in Lobitos and Piedritas already have several initiatives in the pipeline and have a close relationship with the local community.
All student submissions will be reviewed against a set of marking criteria by a group of international experts and reviewers. Each reviewer is recruited and trained by Engineers Without Borders and is independent of the organisation. As well as being an academic exercise, the Engineering for People Design Challenge is a competition and an excellent opportunity for students to showcase their work to potential future employers and industry experts. The top-ranked teams from each participating university will be invited to attend as semi-finalists who compete with teams from other participating universities on the day of the Grand Finals.
South African Universities involved include:
• University of the Witwatersrand.
• University of Johannesburg.
• University of Pretoria.
• Tshwane University of Technology.
• North West University.
• University of Cape Town.
• Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
• Stellenbosch University.
Brian Andrew, managing director of RS Components SA, said: “Our aspiration is to ‘make amazing happen for a better world’, improving the lives of others by inspiring the next generation of engineers in the creation of a more sustainable world through innovative solutions. It makes sense to partner with Engineers Without Borders South Africa as their ethos is to ‘empower engineers to empower communities.’ We believe that through our support and participation of the Engineering for People Design Challenge, along with other programmes, we can help nurture the next generation of globally responsible engineers.”
Irshaad Vawda, CEO of EWB-SA, said that the educational initiatives run by RS Components SA reflect their dedication to supporting and inspiring the next generation of engineers. “We, at EWB-SA, are excited to partner with a global entity that shares our mission to engineer a better future for our planet and the people who inhabit it. RS Components has a long history of nurturing engineering talent so we couldn’t be more pleased to have them as our local partners for the Engineering for People Design Challenge,” he said.
For more information about the Engineering for People Design Challenge visit
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