International Engineering Ambassadors
Insight into the life & course of international students.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Engineering is about teamwork!

Written by: Birju Galaiya

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I wrote a blog- assignments and courseworks have kept me busy. I now have a 3 week Easter break where I plan to go through lecture contents and complete tutorial sheets. Oh and also try work on 2 assignments! I hope to take a break and escape to the peak district and also spend some time with relatives back in London before coming back for the second part of this semester. But before that why don’t I talk to you about the workshops I have had as an engineering student. In this blog I will talk about my experience during a weeklong workshop known as the ‘Global Engineering Challenge’.

In the first year I did not have any exams in January (such a relief!) but as a mechanical engineering student, it was compulsory to undertake a week-long workshop just before the second semester began. Students from most of the departments were involved including Civil, Chemical, ACSE, Aerospace engineering. Since we were about 900 students, we were split into teams of 5 students all studying different courses. Groups were put into different rooms known as ‘Hubs’ where a postgraduate facilitator guided us through the week.

Our task was to come up with a sustainable engineering solution to help rural Vietnamese people living in the Mekong Delta which was one of the poorest regions. We had several options on what we could do- improving sanitation, using renewable energy to power the houses, ensuring the water is safe to drink and perhaps using a suitable material to build houses. I was excited about having this opportunity to put into use the academic knowledge I had gained in my first semester and also solve the challenges involved. Being in a group of five, all doing different courses, we knew that we should select an idea taking into account the skills set we possessed as a group. Having two mechanical and one electrical engineer, we decided that finding a solution for a reliable source of energy was ideal for us. Although all other options were tempting to undertake, we used our decision making skills to choose a solution that would suit us the best- reliable source of energy.

Taking initiative, I became the group leader and ensured we had a goal that we would try achieve. As the week went by, I enjoyed working with the group members I had- they were friendly, enthusiastic and we didnt have major disputes. During that week it was snowing so we decided to use the snow as an opportunity to have a team bonding session. Yes- we made a snowman! It was especially fun for me because it was the first time I had seen snow (apart from movies obviously). I think this made the team stronger and more determined to win the challenge.

Coming up with a pioneering solution to the problem required us to work as a team by brainstorming about the design, reliability and viability of different types of renewable energy solutions like solar power, wind energy or harnessing the energy of the water in the river nearby. After choosing solar panels we researched about the numerous factors such as maintenance required, optimum size of panels, and safety of equipment including the battery. We finally estimated the costs of the design and presented it to staff and fellow colleagues explaining the decisions we made. Although our solution did not win, our confidence in presenting it led us to win the ‘Best Communicated Solution’ award for the hub. We were really happy because not only did we get a certificate, we also got cup-cakes to celebrate our victory in style!

I gained so many skills- teambuilding, leadership, inter-personal skills, creativity, researching.I could go on and on! These are the skills employers are looking for and with this experience I was more confident in working as a team. At first I was disappointed that we couldnt make our own team and that we were meant to attend 9am-5pm daily with only a lunch break in between. But at the end of the week- I made new friends, learnt how to work with them and realised that the 9am-5pm would be standard for any job.

To have a read on the challenge go onto
To see a video go onto (try spot me!)

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