• News
  • 23rd August 2019

UK students to tackle engineering challenges

Article by Amanda Jasi

FIVE UK student teams are to compete against counterparts from the US and China as part of a special Collaboration Lab competition in London, on 12–16 September. The competition will take place ahead of the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019 (GGCS2019).

Invited to participate by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), the teams were shortlisted from participants of the Global Grand Challenges Student Competition 2019. The six-month competition identifies the best student-developed solutions to one of the grand challenges. It is an opportunity for students to develop their abilities to develop transformational solutions to complex global issues.

Collaboration Lab will bring together up to 300 students from the UK, US, and China. The event aims to stimulate and encourage cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary collaboration and is expected to help provide the tools needed for transformational problem-solving.

On 13 September, the five winning teams from each of the participating countries will pitch their proposals to senior judges.

The shortlisted UK teams include two from Loughborough University, with the remaining teams coming from Cambridge, Heriot-Watt, and Surrey. Their innovations are as follows:

  • University of Cambridge: A fruit-and-vegetable powdered drink mix, produced using microwave dehydration, to improve access and nutrition.
  • Heriot-Watt University: Hive House, prefabricated and recyclable modular housing which can be stacked and expanded as and when needed. The innovation aims to solve the issue of sustaining 10bn people.
  • Loughborough University 1: A self-sustaining, off-grid toilet block to tackle lack of sanitation in rural and rapidly urbanising communities. The innovation uses a biodigester system to produce high quality fertiliser and electricity from human waste.
  • Loughborough University 2: Modular intermediate-term housing for populations displaced by natural and humanitarian crises.
  • University of Surrey: An Airbnb-style storage network for grains, intended to contribute to Zero Hunger by 2050.

Winners of the in-country competition will receive a “small cash prize”.

Following the in-country pitches, the students will be reassembled into mixed-country teams. Over the course of three days the new teams will develop new and improved innovations to tackle the same issues, to demonstrate the power of diversity and cross-cultural working. The mixed-country teams will pitch their innovations to the judges on the final day of the competition.

All of the Student Competition teams will attend GGCS2019, and the winning mixed-country teams – shortlisted by the judges – will have the opportunity to present their innovations at the event, to an audience of engineers, researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and policymakers.

The GGCS2019 will take place in London at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the South Bank Centre, on 16–18 September 2019.

The overall theme of GGCS2019 is Engineering in an unpredictable world. 900 engineers from all over the world will come together to address the opportunities and challenges posed by the two sub-themes, which concern the impact of AI and other transformational technologies on humanity and the ability to sustain a population of 10bn people.  

John Lazar, Fellow of the RAEng and Chair of the GGCS2019 Steering Group, said: “The judges were highly impressed with the ingenuity, thoughtfulness, ambition and energy displayed by all the participants. The five teams that were selected will do a great job representing the UK in the competition at the Global Grand Challenges Summit, but we hope all the students involved will join them at the GGCS Collaboration Workshop, because it’s clear they will be able to make a major contribution to the mixed country teams that will be formed.”

GGCS2019 is the launch of a second series of summits jointly hosted by the UK, US, and Chinese academies of engineering, based on the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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