Engineering Now .: Volume 2 - Edition 8 .: February 28, 2006

First-Year Engineering Students Tackle Global Issues

By Professors Amarjeet Bassi and Ken McIsaac

First-year students showcase their four-person space conscious shelter for Angola.

First-year students in the Faculty of Engineering are providing solutions to the challenges of a developing world as part of the ES050-Engineering Design and Innovation Studio.

The projects, which are led by Engineering Professors from different disciplines including: Dr.Rohani, and Dr. Ray (CBE); Dr. Hinchberger and Dr. Southen (CEE); Dr. Sabarinathan and Dr. Samani (ECE); and Dr. Sun and Dr. Kurowski (MME), address real-world issues facing developing nations. Students work in teams of 6 in eight Design Studios. Their projects are divided into three phases.

In the first phase - “Problem Definition” - the students performed research into the needs of developing communities to identify situations where engineering innovation can improve quality of life. Members of Western’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) were involved in this phase, and the students applied the EWB approach of considering both engineering problems and solutions in a local context, never losing sight of the needs, capabilities and resources of the community.

In the second and current phase - “Engineering Design and Analysis” - students begin to learn how engineers apply techniques from applied science and mathematics to solve real world problems.

Finally, in the third phase - "Prototyping" -  students will use both tried-and-true techniques (based on hand tools and simple materials) and state-of-the-art methods (such as the new Rapid Prototyping machines available through Engineering Machine Services) to develop small-scale prototypes of their solutions that illustrate how a full-scale solution would work.

Some examples of the many innovative design projects being tackled this year include a shelter for communities in Northern Brazil; a goods transportation cart for people of Mali; an improved display cart for souvenir vendors in Jamaica; a small-scale water purification system for a community in Laos; fishing/transportation boat to help the small costal towns in India to get their local economies back on track after the Tsunami or collapsible shelters for Angola. Other projects include the production of the bio-diesel from readily available oil extracted from the excess crops of palm oil which is an excellent allocation of the area’s resources.

An important goal of the design projects is to provide sustainable and local solutions. The objectives of the design projects are both to provide an awareness of global issues and also to learn the design process through open ended problems.

The Engineering students will present their final design solutions, in the form of prototypes and posters, at the ES050 Design Showcase on April 10, 2006 in the Great Hall. Members of the university community, as well as the public at large, are cordially invited to participate in this event. This is an opportunity to meet the engineers of tomorrow to discuss the role of design innovation in society.

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.: Allison Stevenson
Spencer Engineering Building, Room 2074
Telephone: (519) 850-2917 Fax: (519) 661-3808