The following content was contributed by J.O. Haselhoef on behalf of Engineers Without Borders-USA.
Safe Water Network joined with industry representatives in Ghana to challenge top engineering students—highly trained and strongly motivated—to address real-life challenges.
Eddie Doku, Director of Program Management at AECOM in Washington, D.C., led the effort. Doku was born in Ghana and has volunteered for Safe Water Network through its partnership with Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA). “My most valuable experience in college was the connection to industry that the adjunct professors brought to the students,” said Doku, who graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “They encountered, from their work in the private sector, real problems daily.”
Doku initiated a three-year program with a consortium composed of Safe Water Network, EWB-USA, Feminist Data Research, and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology based in Kumasi, Ghana. The program is funded by the Canada-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC), which invests in knowledge, innovation, and solutions in order to improve the lives of people in the developing world.
Doku introduced the two primary phases of the program earlier this year: first, student groups pitched projects, which were responsive to industry needs, in a Shark Tank-style event. Judges winnowed the 18 teams down to nine. The nine selected projects were each assigned a faculty mentor and awarded research grants. Projects included: the development of a centralized bank of sanitation data; the creation of a multi-sensor system for remote water-quality monitoring; and the design of a demand-side smart domestic electrical energy-management system.
Second, consortium members presented a three-day workshop in September 2019, providing skills for project management, safety, health, and environment, as well as in the preparation of proposals and presentations.
The program gave students a fantastic opportunity to interact directly with industry experts. Students created equipment and technology, refined both with the faculty, and met industry’s timeframes and production costs. “Problem solving, in this case, was not top-down,” Doku said.
The first round of this three-year program finishes at the end of 2019. Then, a new group of industry representatives will present their challenges to a different set of students, and the development of real-world solutions will begin anew.