“Journey of Innovation” is a Ground-Up Innovation course designed to develop young humanitarian leaders and social entrepreneurs (above 15 years old) through Experiential Learning, Design Thinking and Hands-On Prototyping.
The SL2 team conducted the 1st Humanitarian Engineering Alliance (HEAL) Practicum for tertiary engineering students – towards nurturing grounded humanitarian engineers! Over 8 intense sessions in May & June, young engineers from the NUS and NTU student branches of the Institution of Engineers (Singapore) designed, built and improved upon humanitarian innovations, creating over 25 mock-ups and at least 5 prototypes!
While their peers were enjoying their holidays, 17 tertiary students from various engineering programs at both NUS and NTU volunteered to spend four of their weekends (and many weekdays) slogging it out in the process of designing, prototyping and building humanitarian innovations targeted at rural communities within Asia.
This was all part of the Humanitarian Engineering Practicum, which was organized by the IES Humanitarian Engineering Alliance (HEAL) technical committee from 6 May till 3 June 2012 and run by the Sustainable Living Lab, at Bottle Tree Park (Yishun). The HEAL practicum was designed to be a hands-on experience where tertiary engineering students get to experience designing and more importantly building from scratch, technological innovations that are appropriate for deployment in rural development settings in Asia. It is aimed at young engineers who aspire to get an authentic engineering experience in solving bottom-of-pyramid challenges.
Over the course of 4 weekends, young engineers learned about the operating in a humanitarian context from humanitarian professionals from World Vision. Understanding that designing a humanitarian innovation is more than just an engineering problem; the young engineers also strove to understand their user needs by performing a needs assessment and creating a user experience map to figure out how their target communities would react to their innovation.
As part of a good project management philosophy, students also had to prepare budgets and get hands-on experience in fabricating and sourcing for materials on a very limited budget. Last but not least, they had to create a distribution program to market and educate the target community and create a financially sustainable model for their innovation.
Students were presented with three projects options:
- Building a solar cooker that works in the early morning and late evening.
- Building a hyper efficient wood burning stove that is smokeless and can be used for indoor cooking.
- Building a transitional sheltered classroom that exceeds SPHERE humanitarian standards. The young engineers formed into 5 different groups and were mentored by experienced engineering professionals and humanitarian practitioners from local and international NGOs.
The young engineers formed into 5 different groups and were mentored by experienced engineering professionals and humanitarian practitioners from local and international NGOs.
After 4 exciting weekends and many weekdays of hard work, the young humanitarian engineers made their final presentation to IES President Prof SK Chou on 3 June 2012 followed by an enjoyable cook-off where teams used their prototypes to cook dinner. Over the course of the practicum the teams had together created 10 prototypes and 26 mock-ups.
Here are what some of the young humanitarian engineers had to say about the HEAL Practicum:
The HEAL program was a completely fresh and new experience for me. It was really a great experience to lose our ego and dig into a range of activities, from building a shelter on the first day to working as a team and building multiple prototypes to sharing cooked food at the end of the program. Help and be helped was the atmosphere most of the time!
HEAL gave us a good view into the life of a humanitarian engineer. Although we did not experience it directly, members from World Vision, books and many stories helped us get a good overall picture. No words can justify the importance that should be given to a practical experience of engineering. It was nice working with Environmental, Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical and even Material Science Engineers all under one roof.
– Siddharth Rajgopalan (NUS, Mechanical Engineering)
The learning spirit that makes us learn through self-experiencing the ‘doings’ instead of learning it from someone else experience/ from the book. It has given me a chance to get my hands dirty and work on something that is visible and workable. It also helps me build up my patience and be more understanding when working with others.
– Yeoh Hui Wen (NUS, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering)
[The Practicum] taught me how to implement ideas into real product. I really enjoy the process of building the final prototype.
– Pan Biyong (NTU, Electrical Engineering)