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During our Engineering Possibilities Webinar Q&A, held on Wednesday November 4th, 2020, we received many insightful questions and whilst we attempted to provide as many answers as possible, there were a handful we couldn’t get to. We’ve answered these outstanding questions below. 

If you missed the Engineering Possibilities Webinar, you can view the recording here.

Question: Your talk/presentations touched on a number of fundamental aspects that are key to the systemic engineering of systems of any type. Just wondering of you had looked at, or have visibility of the Systems Engineering Society of Australia (SESA) and/or the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). Lots of material in the SE Body of Knowledge that may be of help and direct relevance to the excellent work being done.

Gaetano: So far we have not looked at the Systems Engineering Society of Australia (SESA) and/or the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). It is definitely something that we are going to explore and we appreciate the suggestion. 

Question: How to work with the Indigenous communities of Australia and overseas in coming days?

Gaetano: Community culture and social aspects are at the centre of our technology development approach. Indigenous communities in Australia and their representatives promote and lead many of the projects that EWB supports. EWB’s role is ensuring that communities and technical partners can work well together. EWB works with communities so that they understand the possibilities and limits of new infrastructure and technologies. In parallel, EWB works with technical partners so that they are totally aware of how to incorporate the community’s social and cultural needs in their work.

Question: Andy, I would like to know more about the purpose of the project you showed before.

Andy: The Accessible Moto project aims to provide wheelchair users in rural Cambodia with flexible and independent transport options to enable better access to social, cultural and economic opportunities. We are also aiming to support local persons with disability as part of the manufacture, commissioning and maintenance process to create additional livelihoods.

Question: What are the practical difficulties for an Aus-based volunteer to help with remote projects when one can’t visit / see the site and talk with locals on the ground, etc? 

Gaetano: The Australian based volunteers helping with remote projects do not have the opportunity to see how the real situation on the ground is. Depending on the time zone they might not be able to attend all the meetings set up locally. There is also  a need to understand and learn the local culture and habits. This requires a lot of observation and cannot be done remotely. Those challenges can be resolved or mitigated when the volunteers have an open attitude to different ways and styles of communication and when they learn to work at the rhythm proposed by their local counterparts.

Question: Kim, how does EWB coordinate with other groups working on health, education and community development with the same Indigenous group?

Kim: We work with Aboriginal corporations and community groups who have identified a need for engineering assistance to achieve their community development goals. Often they will also be working with other organisations and companies, and where a project intersects with these groups and their work, we will work collaboratively with them and ensure that projects are complementing each other. This process is generally led and guided by the community.

Question: What’s Agri Lab? 

Andy: This is a program that we run in Cambodia and Indonesia, which aims to improve the ability of people with disability to access agricultural livelihoods through the creation of assistive technology that enables people with a disability to engage in the farming of their choosing. You can read more about it here.

Question: Is there any project which we can address the Bushfire disasters ? Smart technology to prevent bushfires can be implemented through design solutions. 

Gaetano: So far we have not worked in bushfire prevention.

Question: What type of challenges has EWB recently experienced relating to ensuring the design/construction/operation of these assets are up to the appropriate standards/quality? – Any lessons learnt to share? 

Mariny: Since EWB-Cambodia has only a few local staff members and only one engineer who is working on the technology project, it is a challenge for us. However, we have field professional volunteers, researchers, and partners to support in technical design and provide a recommendation to the project. To ensure the design/construction/operation to be appropriate standard, there are many challenges for local constructors (masons) and local business owners. Because they are not a professional worker who trained from school or have an education degree, they learnt from their relative, friend, or they knew how to do it by practicing with the headman. So, the skill and knowledge we share with them needs to be very simple and practice by doing more than theory. One more thing, the timeline and budget of a project are also important to justify the appropriate technology standards. 

Question: Are there any career opportunities for graduating engineers at EWB? 

Gaetano: Our career opportunities are advertised on our website and through our networks. The roles and the expertise required for the roles depends on the program’s needs and  requirements.We often employ engineers with a few years of working experience but sometimes we open positions for graduating engineers as well.

Question: Given how many problems that need solving. Is your biggest challenge (in Tech-Dev) – a lack of great projects; a lack of volunteers to work on them – or a lack of resources to manage the projects ? 

Gaetano: Very often the biggest challenge in our work is to be able to contextualise existing technologies to the local contexts. We set up teams to develop solutions. The team members have different kinds of expertise and a different view of what could work well and why. The challenge is for the team to develop solutions that are a compromise between different technical, financial, environmental and social elements.

If you missed the Engineering Possibilities Webinar Q&A and some of the live questions posed by our participants, you can view the recording here

EWB’s international program is supported by the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and with support from generous donors. You can support our program – please donate today.