First cohort of humanitarian engineers graduate from ANU

Thursday 15 December 2016

The ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science is celebrating the graduation of Australia’s first cohort of humanitarian engineers. 

The six Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) students are the first to undertake multiple projects with a humanitarian engineering focus as part of their degrees, allowing them to apply their studies directly to enhance the livelihoods of individuals and communities.

Through their studies, the students took part in two-week immersive placements learning about community development and appropriate technology in Cambodia, Singapore or India, and worked with a range of organisations in the ACT focused on access and inclusion.

Many completed their honours thesis with topics on 3D printed prosthetics, designing wheel-chair accessible tuk-tuks, examining cooking technologies in refugee camps, the use of bamboo as a construction material in rural Cambodia and tackling the challenges of waste management in agricultural communities in South-East Asia.

Research engineer and driving force behind the humanitarian engineering courses at ANU, Jeremy Smith, is proud to see the first students graduate. 

“Through these humanitarian engineering initiatives students gain not only a greater understanding of how to apply their engineering skills and knowledge to complex challenges, but also the importance of engagement, communication and diversity in achieving positive change and impact.”

The humanitarian engineering program has been possible thanks to a long-term partnership between ANU and Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Australia, a member-based community organisation creating social value through engineering and technology. 

EWB’s Director of Education and Research Jenny Turner believes these programs have a positive impacts for students and communities alike.

“The partnership highlights the commitment of ANU to facilitating students to use their technical skills to create a positive impact on society and helps them to realise their responsibility as global citizens.

“It has shown the benefits of students engaging with humanitarian engineering from the first day of their studies and demonstrates how much impact it can have on their learning, motivations and views of engineering.”

Humanitarian engineering has a natural alignment with the systems engineering focus of the ANU engineering program, providing skills for students and graduates to work on complex multi-faceted challenges. 

This was emphasised during the 2016 Graduate Address delivered by ANU engineering alumni Sunny Forsyth.  Since his graduation in 2006, Sunny has established Abundant Water, working with communities in Laos, Nepal and Timor-Leste to provide clear drinking water through ceramic water filters.

“It was a great honour to come back and deliver the graduation address, and see how students are now able to really engage with humanitarian engineering during their studies and not just stumble across it in their careers like I did.”

For many students like Cameron Nelson, participation in the program has helped shape their future career paths.  

“Before going to the ANU I had never even considered humanitarian engineering as an option. Now after my experiences (both in courses and extracurricular activities) getting involved with humanitarian engineering is at the top of my list. I hope I can do meaningful work that will make a positive difference."

Click here to learn more about Hummanitarian Engineering.



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