CSU success in Engineers Without Borders challenge

Friday 15 Dec 2017

First year Charles Sturt University (CSU) engineering students achieved one of the top scoring reports in NSW as part of the 2017 Engineers Without Borders (EWB) challenge.

The annual EWB Challenge is open to first-year engineering students in Australia and New Zealand with the underlying purpose of helping communities in developing countries, and introducing students to the role engineers can play in society. In 2017 EWB partnered with Live and Learn Vanuatu and attracted over 9 000 students from across Australia and New Zealand.

As one of the top scoring project teams in Australia and New Zealand, CSU Engineering, was invited to develop and build a prototype of their idea so they could pitch it to EWB judges. The students settled on a copra dryer that could be used by families in Vanuatu to generate income and improve their living standards.

EWB Australia professionals visited and consulted with the communities of East Santo and Live and Learn Vanuatu to understand community needs and the design opportunities that would have an impact, as part of developing the 2017 Challenge Design Brief. This feedback pointed to the communities’ desire for a solution that would allow families generate the income needed to send their children to school.

CSU Engineering lecturer and EWB Challenge coordinator, Dr Andrea Goncher said the Challenge was an opportunity for students to apply their learning to solving a real-world problem and to put theory to practice.

“Not only does it provide students an opportunity to apply humanitarian engineering concepts, but it also gives students the experience in pitching a proposal, developing an idea, testing it, refining it and presenting their design solution to get feedback from the potential end-users.” Dr Goncher said.

Describing the EWB Challenge as an opportunity that aligned with the CSU Engineering program aims, Dr Goncher said the University taught across engineering’s broad spectrum from human centred design projects, sustainability, and other civil engineering areas such as water quality and supply.

“Because Engineers Without Borders Australia visit the partnering communities to understand what their needs are before deciding on the eventual challenge, some of the outcomes of the challenge, e.g. the students’ proposed solutions, have the potential to improve the quality of life in developing countries.” Dr Goncher said.

The CSU Engineering team’s prototype was presented at the National EWB Showcase in Melbourne, where 24 teams from across Australia and NZ presented their work to a panel of judges. The CSU team did not receive an award at the showcase this year, but did receive valuable feedback from the panel, including Live and Learn Vanuatu representatives.

“Regardless of the outcome, the process of taking a project brief, generating and developing ideas, presenting them to CSU Engineering academics, building, testing and pitching to EWB and other stakeholders gave the students an experience that will help them in their engineering careers.” Dr Goncher said.

Adding that the process, even for those students who didn’t make it onto the top scoring team, was one they would face as engineers as part of their everyday careers.


Media contact: Aaron McDonnell, 0427 845 830

Media Note:
Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Dr Andrea Goncher CSU Engineering.