DMU students reach grand final of engineering competition

Think of engineering projects and large-scale road building projects, aircraft design or hi-tech gadgets spring to mind – but not in Engineers without Borders. 

The EwB’s Engineering for People Design Challenge calls on students to think of ways they could solve real problems affecting some of the world’s poorest communities.

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De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) students have made it through to the finals of this year’s competition with ideas for more affordable, reusable sanitary pads and a pedal bike that can shred plastic for recycling.

Today both teams travel to London for the grand finals where they will be competing against students from UK universities to be crowned the 2019 Grand Prize winner, earning £2,000 for their team and the title.

This year, students were asked to study life in Tamil Nadu, southern India, and come up with a solution for an issue in one of seven different areas – transportation, waste, water, sanitation, energy, built environment and digital.

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The EcoFem team - Jake, Rebecca and Daisy

Engineering students have to consider the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of their ideas to see whether they could work with the communities they are designing them for.

Jake Morgan, Daisy Nurden, Rebecca Clark came up with a plan for a new kind of sanitary product after learning that in rural Tamil Nadu, women use rags and clothes instead of tampons or pads because they cannot afford Western-style products. There are also no methods of disposing of sanitary pads or plastics in the state, creating waste.

The team came up with the idea of a washable outer casing with an inner absorbent core that can be burned. The new pads would be produced by local women, creating a new income. Judges who assessed their idea described it as “A brave and challenging subject to take on but one with the potential for big impact.”

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The second idea is for a Plastic Shredder Bike, which solves the problem of recycling plastic waste, created by Mariyah Mulla, Mubeen Ansar, Haroon Manzoor, Joriel De Guzman, Earl Gozum (some of the team pictured below).

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Conventional shredders can cost up to £40,000 but their solution requires no electrical power and it will cost no more than £250 to make. People will be able to use the shredded plastic to make new products. Judges who assessed their idea found that the design was “well thought out and ready to implement.”

Engineers without Borders UK works with communities around the world to develop sustainable solutions for basic infrastructure needs.

Posted on Friday 14th June 2019

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