Teams triumph in global engineering design challenge

The skyline of Johannesburg

Two Strathclyde teams made it into the Grand Final of a prestigious design competition which aims to provide real world solutions to issues faced by a real community.

The Engineers Without Borders UK Engineering for People Design Challenge attracted entries from more than 1,000 student teams across the UK and Ireland. The students were tasked to come up with design solutions to issues faced by the Makers Valley community, an urban area in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Around 45,000 people live there, and rapid population growth and economic inequality have caused housing shortages, inconsistent access to electricity and water, food scarcity, and problems with waste collection.

Design solution

Students were tasked to design a solution, focusing on one areas from built environment, water, sanitation, energy, waste, housing, transport and digital and also demonstrate consideration of the social, cultural, environment and economic impacts of their idea.

Students smiling at the camera

The Strathclyde ‘Green Roofs’ team project and the team behind a Sustainable Urban Drainage design were selected as two of just 37 projects to go forward to the Grand Final, with the former then being shortlisted into the final six.

The green roofs project was a mitigation strategy against urbanisation in Makers Valley and the design accommodated urban development while also providing benefits for the environment, nutrition, and wellbeing, as well as incorporating native plants threatened by urbanisation.

The team of Shannen Krost and Mackenzie Moreau, who are on exchange during their Civil Engineering Undergraduate at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and Rocco Panetta and Gabriele Valente, students from Italy who are also on the MEng Civil Engineering course at Strathclyde, impressed the judges with the duality of the design “as both a possible source of income and food for the owner and an educational tool for the community and schools to learn from. “

Endangered plants

The team was also praised for recognising the need to protect endangered plant species, particularly given that South Africa is home to the smallest and one of the most endangered floral kingdoms in the world.

Shannen Krost said: “Being born and raised in Johannesburg, the design competition became a very personal project for me. The team and I are exceptionally proud of ourselves, not only making it to the finale but also the top six.

“It was a lovely way to wrap up my exchange experience.”

Mackenzie Moreau said: “The Design Challenge experience gave our team invaluable skills we will be able to use for the rest of our engineering careers. “

The Strathclyde Sustainable Urban Drainage team was made up of MEng Civil Engineering students Luke Reid, John Harris, Laurynas Sukys and Francis McKernan. They were praised for their design and creating green space for ecosystem-supporting ‘mini-forests’. The design made use of 3D printing using recycled waste plastic, and so also tackled waste management.

Sustainable development

Strathclyde class lead, Dr Jennifer Roberts, Chancellor’s Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering, said: “Many of the issues presented by the urban nature of this years’ Challenge is applicable in many other places around the world.

“Our finalist teams developed and adapted their design ideas to fit the environment, economic and social context of Makers Valley, and, working together, they have learnt skills critical to supporting global sustainable development.”

The Grand Prize winners were a team from University College Dublin with their design concept Connectivi-Tree which aims to address the lack of internet available in Makers Valley.

Emma Crichton, Head of Engineering at Engineers without Borders UK, said: “We had a tremendous response from this year’s Design Challenge with some truly remarkable solutions and ideas that illustrated the students growing understanding of global responsibility in engineering design.”

The competition follows the success of Strathclyde students in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge.