They are effective at navigating the social and cultural norms both at home and abroad, and are capable of applying the lessons learnt in one environment and culture to the next. EWB members have long embodied these traits, but furthering the education and training of these tenets in all engineers is critical to equipping our sector to respond to the significant challenges of poverty, population growth and climate change.Many EWB organisation around the world share a common goal – to educate a new generation of Global Engineers. At the heart of this goal is the belief that every engineer can be an agent of change for a more socially just and environmentally sustainable world. The EWB International Network is now providing a platform for independent EWB organisations to collaborate on engineering education initiatives, supporting an emerging and truly international movement of Global Engineers.
In particular, the Alcoa Foundation (thought EWB International) has provided grants to six EWB organisations to develop and expand their humanitarian engineering education initatives. This enabled EWB Australia to work with EWB Canada and EWB UK to share ideas, program designs and new curricula. In November , representatives from EWB organisations met in Washington D.C. to share their experiences and ideas at the ‘Global Engineer Forum’. EWB Australia was represented by Lizzie Brown (CEO), Jenny Turner (EWB Challenge Coordinator) and Phil Clark (Board Chair)
“The Forum discussed how EWBs can work together towards a future where all engineers see themselves as Global Engineers. It presented a rare opportunity for sharing best practice, the cross-pollination of ideas and the creation of new working groups around specific initiatives,” said Jenny Turner.
EWB Australia is playing a lead role in facilitating collaborations across the EWB-I community to successfully integrate global engineering skills into traditional technical engineering curricula.
One of the projects led by EWB Australia is the EWB Challenge, a first-year university design program that aims to introduce engineering students to humanitarian engineering through real world projects. The EWB Challenge, sponsored by BHP Billiton, is EWB Australia’s biggest program and involves over , Australian engineering students a year. This year students are tasked with designing an engineering solution relating to water supply, sanitation, waste management or housing for a rural community in the West African country of Cameroon.
The EWB Challenge started as a pilot in . It has now grown to an international program, implemented across universities in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and is a great example of how international collaborations with other EWBs can take shape. Discussions have begun with EWB USA and EWB India about bringing the Challenge to their shores.
But raising a new generation of Global Engineers is only one aspect of instilling this mindset unanimously in engineers everywhere. There is also a need to shift the paradigm of experienced engineers. One way of achieving this is by making engineers more aware of and interested in the social impacts of the projects they are working on through professional education initiatives such as EWB’s Dialogues on Development Program and Link Festival.
“Learning the ‘non-technical’ side of engineering and development, how to effectively work with a variety of global communities and understanding their priorities, norms, values and communication styles is essential,” said Oliver Nachevski, president of EWB-I.
Addressing these social aspects of engineering has long been one of the most difficult areas to tackle on an international scale, as it needs to consider cultural differences between engineers and the host communities in which they work. Internationally EWBs are leading a movement towards a sector of Global Engineers, who aim to solve the world’s greatest challenges in a socially conscious and sustainable way.
EWB Australia is an independent organisation that is a member of EWB – International, an international federation of national Engineers Without Borders / Ingeneiurs San Frontiers Member Associations.
Written by Katie Shozi