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Civil Engineering students win design challenge


A team of Leeds Beckett University students has won the Engineering for People Design Challenge Grand Prize for their concept of building a women’s’ community hub in Tamil Nadu, India, using locally sourced natural and affordable materials.

Winning students

The annual Engineering for People Design Challenge is organised by Engineers Without Borders UK, a charity dedicated to inspiring the engineering community to serve all people and our planet better than ever before.

Second year Civil Engineering students Patricia Fernandez, Georgia Haslam, Lydia Williams and Charlotte Sutherland, were the first students from the university to enter the competition and successfully secured a £2,000 educational bursary.

They overcame competition from 6,500 students and 31 universities including UK institutions such as Imperial College, University of Liverpool and University of Sheffield.

Civil Engineering students working

Lydia Williams said: “It feels incredible to have won the Grand Prize. Taking part in the competition was a really positive experience, from start to finish.

“I think Engineers Without Borders has allowed us to realise the importance of sustainable engineering and how much of a positive impact it can have on the environment. The amount we learnt about the topic was really eye opening and has made me want to go into sustainability in engineering as a future career.

“The challenge has also allowed us to realise the importance of using the knowledge and opportunities we have as a western country to help those who really need it in places such as Tamil Nadu.”

This year’s competition brief focused on the communities located in Tamil Nadu in India, where the vast majority of people still live in rural areas where the population is steadily increasing.

Students were challenged to rethink rural life and propose interventions that underpin aspirational lifestyles and address the impacts of poor water and sanitation provision, a lack of waste management, limited transport and digital infrastructure and unreliable energy provision.

Tom Craven, Civil Engineering Course Director at Leeds Beckett University said: “I want to congratulate the students for their fantastic laboratory work, submission and presentations.

“I've worked with them closely on this project to provide a guiding hand and advise on the content of work. It was great to see them take on and develop some of the work I did on my own dissertation on cement stabilised soil.

“They deserved this success and I hope they all look back on this with pride in years to come. From a personal perspective it is a positive highlight of my professional life and it is great that we can share in this success.”

The students wanted to improve the position of women in rural communities by designing a place where they could spend time and learn new skills in a safe environment. The building materials, including bamboo and cement stabilised soil, were easy to source locally and the team tested them in practice during the design phase to ensure their suitability.

The judges were impressed by their comprehensive approach to the challenges outlined in the brief and commitment to creating a solution that would grow to benefit the entire community.

All four successful students are now embarking on a placement year in industry.

To read more about the 2019/2020 Engineering for People Design Challenge, please visit www.ewb-uk.org

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