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Students take on engineering challenge


About 900 undergraduates from the University of Sheffield will be taking part in a global engineering challenge applying their engineering skills to issues in a rural Indian village, and learning new skills along the way.

The first year students, from the University's Faculty of Engineering, will work together on a total of 12 projects linked to waste management, energy, water and ICT in a rural Indian community of Devikulum, Tamil Nadu, in India, in teams of six.

As well as searching for solutions to real-life engineering problems faced by developing communities, it is hoped the undergraduates will develop skills including working effectively in groups with different expertise, cultures, problem-solving, and design, which will benefit them in their futures.

The week-long event, which is the first time students from the University will have taken part in the Engineering Without Borders Challenge based project, will take place on 23 January 2012.

Dr Stephen Beck, of the University's Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: "Instead of doing a series of exams, every first year engineering student will spend a week working on a project.

"I am anticipating great things to come out of this for our students and it will help them on their transition from school or college to the University. It will be a great chance for the students to join together and learn not only about how they can use their skills to improve people's lives, but also to develop the interdisciplinary group working skills that they will need on their courses and also in their future careers.

"The exercises have been designed to develop a range of skills that will be useful during the week itself, throughout the rest of their degree and in their future employment.

"It is also a key component of the week that students will develop a strong understanding of the social, cultural, global and environmental responsibilities of the professional engineer, and the need for and principles of sustainable development. They could find themselves researching alternative fuel sources for a small community in India, or designing new water and sanitation systems."

At the end of the challenge the students will be asked to present their ideas, showing they have considered the social, environmental and economic impacts.
Alumni and industry experts, including TATA steel, will be coming to talk to the students throughout the week.