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Team D-22- 025

This February, in collaboration with AzuKo, Engineers Without Borders UK delivered the Designathon for the third year running. The purpose of this challenge was for students to develop innovative solutions to combat current and future global challenges. The challenge gave students the opportunity to have their design concepts critically assessed by industry professionals, who kindly volunteered their time to provide invaluable feedback and guidance.

To learn more about the experience, we interviewed Helen from Cardiff University in Wales, Boaz, representing Gulu University in Uganda, Isabel from the University of Bristol in England, and Jahanar, from the University of Pécs in Hungry. The team won second prize and the People's prize for their design of the Change Natural Disaster Aid Map.

Their solution is designed to accommodate additional aid to account for the increase in natural disasters due to climate change, via the use of artificial intelligence and satellites. The map aims to predict what aid will be required before the disaster occurs so that preemptive action can be taken place. The concept was designed to coordinate aid to affected countries as quickly and efficiently as possible. This in turn would help communities to be resilient to natural disasters and reduce subsequent suffering

What skills has the Designathon helped you develop?

The group felt that the Designathon has helped them to develop individual skill sets such as communication, teamwork, and networking. The Designathon gave the team a detailed perspective of how you can work towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the value the goals can have in shaping our future. Jahanara added,

“The challenge highlighted how sustainability and engineering should be intertwined for a better future”.

How will you use the skills in education and in your career?

The team mentioned that the new social and professional networks gained from participating in the challenge will support them in the future. Helen mentioned that throughout the Designathon, she learned the importance of innovative thinking and long term planning, to ensure the device will last for years to come. This is a thought process she wants to carry on throughout her studies and professional career. Jahanara learned the importance of improving their knowledge of sustainable engineering practices and following the principles of the SDGs for future projects.

What did you learn from your teammates during this process?

The group learned a lot about climate change and natural disasters, giving all members a better understanding of how different international organisations and countries prepare for these occurrences. Being a part of a multinational team provided a more rounded view of how to approach these issues.

Sohana shared with the team how in Bangladesh, India, schools and community centres are used as designated safe spaces in natural disasters. This is because the buildings are often located on hills, protecting the properties from flooding, which is one of Bangladesh’s most common threats. Helen added that the process made her consider how the UK prepares for natural disasters.

Has Designathon challenged your perception of engineering? If so, how?

The team had varying perspectives on engineering prior to the challenge. Boaz mentioned that he felt engineering was mainly about building infrastructures and repairing machinery. Boaz now feels that engineering is the major driver of a nation’s economy, and without it, few or no innovations would be put in place.

Helen mentioned that the challenge helped her to realise the amount of international collaboration made possible by technology. However, she recognises that there is still a gap in technological advancements between nations that must be addressed. Jahanara also mentioned that,

“{...} The importance of collaboration in engineering is essential, as it is connected to every sphere of life.”

What inspired the design that your team developed?

The extreme weather conditions caused by climate change was the main driving force behind the development of this design. The team wanted to recognise the impact natural disasters can have on people's lives, through their solution. The team recognised it is fundamental that those affected can receive aid as quickly as possible, and therefore wanted their design to be accessible to all.

What advice would you give someone participating in the challenge in the future?

The team felt that having an open mind when it came to considering solutions was key. Dedicating plenty of time to ensure the final concept isn’t rushed was another crucial point, especially when navigating different time zones. Isabel also added that in order to succeed, it is essential to go into the challenge ready to fully engage with all the opportunities and resources provided. Utilising the feedback given by the mentor, and discussing different problems and ideas with teammates adds value in developing and communicating the final concept.

Engineers Without Borders UK are working to reach the tipping point to ensure a safe and just future for all. Part of a global movement of over 60 Engineers Without Borders organisations, we inspire, upskill and drive change in the engineering community and together take action to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering.
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