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

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

MY GEC EXPERIENCE 2017 - by Muhhamad Zainudin

It’s been two weeks since the first day of Global Engineering Challenge (GEC) week but I can still vividly remember every single detail of it. After a month of not having to care what time to wake up, I had to be ready by 9 in the morning. I was not exactly sure what to expect from GEC but there was one thing I was hoping for, great teammates. As I was walking through the misty cold morning, I encountered a friend of mine and we walked to the St George’s Church Lecture theatre endlessly talking about our Christmas Holiday experiences. As we arrived, people had already started to find seats and fortunately we managed to grab empty ones. There were a lot of new faces I hadn’t met before because people from different courses across the Engineering faculty were grouped together in this lecture theatre.
Prof Harm Askes started the morning with an energetic introduction and invited a guest speaker from Jaguar Land Rover as an industrial speaker. He was very experienced and wise, telling us about what to expect in the industry. After that, came a speech from Engineers Without Borders (EWB) from an enthusiastic speaker named Dan Craddock. He shared with us some of the projects that EWB has engaged in and it really broadened my horizons about how people are in dire need of help all around the world. Then, we are introduced to Bambui, Cameroon, the small village that everyone was going to work on, finding the best solutions for 26 different problems. My group was tasked with designing an electrical supply infrastructure based on renewable energy sources. The one hour GEC introduction ended with us being briefed about our logistics such as the hub we were in, where it was located and the time management. So, I went to my designated hub which is CIV Workroom 2 on the E floor of the Mappin Building. It was quite challenging to find the room. As the students of The University of Sheffield would know, the Mappin Building could be quite tricky.
I sat down and was introduced to my group mates, Matthew Morrel, Matthew Harding, Matthew Owen, Christopher Liu and Brian Githiga. They were very welcoming and we became friends in a split-second. Morrel and Owen were from Chemical Engineering, Brian was from Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, Christopher and Harding were from Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science respectively. Our facilitator was a very nice man, his name was Matthew Dwyer, another Matthew.

We had team building exercises to know more about our team mates before proceeding with the project. It was a bit awkward to work as a team because we were asked to build a 75 cm tall tower with straws and newspapers and everyone was giving ideas. Out of 8 groups in the hub, none won the challenge. Our facilitator said not to worry about that as we would see the beautiful result at the end of the week and I was looking forward to what he meant.
The days went on with us exchanging ideas and giving our equal contribution to get the project done. We started with Understanding the Problems in Bambui which really helped us get moving. We discovered a whole new world. If we thought 5,000 kWh of electrical consumption and annual income 41,000 USD per capita was normal, then imagine Bambui with a contrast of 200 kWh and 500 USD. We also got familiarized with the proper steps in creating a perfect solution. After we knew the problems, constraints and the stakeholders of the project we moved on to the Design Questions. Asking ourselves what will our design achieve, listing down all the data we have researched and using ballpark estimation for important data we couldn’t find from any sources.
On the next day, we focused on the Design Criteria and each one of us gave our own Design Concepts based on the criteria we had agreed on. We had 6 design concepts and we had to choose the best one by weighing out all the options carefully. It seemed difficult at first, as all the designs proposed by each of our team mates were perfectly reasonable, but our facilitator paved the way as he showed us how to use Decision Matrix to evaluate all our options. Finally, we came up with Biogas Power Plant as the ultimate option. We acknowledged the disadvantages of Biogas Power Plant and we even came up with great solutions to tackle them.
We got our laptops on and started to Develop the Design, laying out all the pros and cons of the idea, the solutions to all the problems, how to implement it, who is funding the project and how to approach them, will it be sustainable and the short and long term effect of the project in terms of politic, environment, economy and social. We submitted the report at the end of the fourth day, feeling exhausted but extremely satisfied with the result. On Friday, we came to the presentation. We had a bit of experience talking in front of an audience because for the last four days, there had been some presentation exercises and we learnt a lot from it. By 4 pm, all the groups finished their presentation and received valuable feedback and comments from our facilitator and the Alumni presented on that day.
For the closing ceremony, we had to go to the St Georges Lecture Theatre and the Vice Chancellor of the Engineering Department gave us few words of wisdom and presented the prizes for the winning team. Even though my team did not win, I felt happy because I can finally understand what our dear facilitator meant on the first day of the GEC. From not being able to work as a team and messing things up, my team and I did finish the project wonderfully and apparently still kept in contact with each other even after the week had ended. I would recommend GEC to be implemented every year as it teaches new students that teamwork is important part of the future and I am thankful for this beautiful experience.

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