A team of engineering students from Massey University’s Albany campus have won the 2012 Engineers Without Borders New Zealand University Challenge, and will represent New Zealand at the Australian Challenge finals in Melbourne on December 4.
The challenge is a trans-Tasman design competition for first-year university students. Developed and co-ordinated by Engineers Without Borders Australia, it has been part of the engineering curriculum in New Zealand universities since 2007.
This year’s challenge was in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Vietnam. Students had to develop innovative solutions for sustainable development of the Anh Minh district, in one of the poorest regions, on the Mekong Delta at the southern tip of Vietnam.
Daniel Burgess, Mike Horrell, Jaafar Alnasser and John Sibal, from the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology in Albany, created the ‘Anytime’ Cooking Solution. It uses two separate stoves made from locally-sourced components so people can cook using solar power for the sunny part of the year, and then switch to a fuel-efficient rocket stove that burns twigs and sticks for use during the rainy season.
Senior lecturer in Product Development and paper convener Dr Aruna Shekar says the paper gives first-year students an opportunity to research ideas linked to real world scenarios and the win is an excellent achievement.
“This paper is the very first course of the new Bachelor of Engineering re-design which involves multi-disciplinary teams of engineering and food technology students working on ‘real-life’ problems. Some of the goals are for students to learn a systems approach to the design process, which considers the appropriateness of the design to the project context,” she says. “They have to not only consider the accessibility of local materials, but also the ‘value against cost’ analyses of their product for the Vietnamese villagers.
“It is particularly exciting to have two Massey teams make it to the finals – especially as this was our first entry into the challenge.”
Team spokesperson Mike Horrell says environmental considerations were part of the problem-solving process.
“We set ourselves sustainable project outcomes that we wanted to achieve, including reducing the use of wood by half, and reducing smoke inhalation while cooking. It had to be affordable, mobile, and robust, and we wanted to help foster a change away from fossil fuel dependence.”
The winning team looked at the different cooking methods currently in use in Vietnam to see if they could be improved upon. Inhabitants of Anh Minh use either electricity, Liquid Petroleum Gas, charcoal, or open fire stoves to cook their food, which can be messy and potentially dangerous.
Although they were nervous on the night of the competition, Mr Burgess and Mr Horrell knew their knowledge of the project was strong enough to answer even the curliest question from the judging panel.
Unfortunately, Mr Alnassar and Mr Sibal missed out on an opportunity to join the presentation process as they had already returned to their home countries of Saudi Arabia and The Philippines for the summer break.
Dr Shekar is confident that the students will be strong contenders for the Australian challenge.
“It has been a pleasure working with the Engineers Without Borders team, the staff supervisors and the students this year, she says. “These students have raised the bar for their classmates, and we look forward to their contributions in future project-based papers.”
Both Mr Burgess and Mr Horrell agree that winning the challenge has reinforced their original ambition to use their engineering skills to solve real world problems. Since winning the competition, they have already attended an Oxfam presentation looking at sanitation and bio-gas solutions for the developing world.
The students are looking forward to representing New Zealand at the Australian challenge in early December. The four-day challenge programme includes workshops, networking with the other teams, a spot of sightseeing and the final presentation competition.
A team from the Manawatū campus, comprising Eruera Tait-Jamieson, Riley Power, Rosa Antunovic and Muhammad Seraj also presented their project on the Mimosa Pigra – harvesting prickles for profit in the Anh Minh district.
Students in the Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) programme can choose to major in one of four key areas – product development, mechatronics, electronics and computer engineering and chemical and bioprocess Engineering. It is a four-year degree and enrolments for the 2013 academic year are currently open.