Podesta Innovation and Enterprise Award Winners

14 December 2017

Four UC Students and a UC Engineering Staff member have just returned from Melbourne, Australia where they won the Podesta Family Enterprise and Innovation Award from the Engineering Without Borders (EWB) Challenge.

  • podesta award

    David Avei, Jack Pilet, Odyssey Posimani and Marcus Reeves receive the the Podesta Family Enterprise and Innovation Award

When students David Avei, Jack Pilet, Odyssey Posimani and Marcus Reeves met in their Engineering 101 class, little did they know that a design they would make would lead to regional recognition. At UC the EWB Challenge is part of Foundations of Engineering Course (ENGR101) and this year 220 students participated. UC Engineering staff noticed the design made by this group stood out, and submitted it to the EWB Challenge in which top University students from Australia and Aotearoa share their humanitarian engineering design ideas. David Avei one of the team members said they were excited to be attending the programme and presenting the design, “…all the way we were like this is cool, and we didn’t expect to win.”

The 2017 EWB Challenge was delivered in partnership with the Live & Learn Environment Education in Vanuatu. With this partnership, the task set for the group was to investigate an efficient and effective method for copra production. The group developed a reversible air-flow drier that uses a solar-powered fan for the drying air circulation. The required heat is generated from renewable resources.  The design allows the reversal of the air-flow which would reduce the drying time significantly and increase the product quality.

David explains, “when coconuts are dried out the kernel left behind (also known as copra), can be used in products like soap, shampoo and in some foods. As the major source of income for many families, it is key that the drying process is consistent. One of the problems with the current design was it took three days to do. Sometimes it stopped people paying for their needs and school…” because of the time taken to harvest.

The team looked to models of rice driers from South East Asia where there are similar environmental factors. “We wanted it to be familiar rather then something new. Where the previous models have inconsistency of heat, it resulted in some burnt copra, we have tried to improve that.”

The team was supported by UC Engineering’s Alfred Herritsch who travelled with the team to Australia, and UC technician Graham Mitchell who assisted in the building of the fantastic model.

Alfred says the team spirit and energy made it a joy to support. As a development opportunity for the students “…it’s a great opportunity to showcase... But also hear from recent graduates, they told stories about what they have been working on as humanitarian engineers, which can be a different point of view; one was a journalist telling stories of the positive impact engineers can have on people’s lives, to encourage more people to pursue engineering as a way to change lives.”  

The group says the win affirms that there are more opportunities to explore, and are excited to see where this goes. “I understood the impact of design having been to Samoa, but I had no idea our design could actually happen…let alone might be something that can exist across Australasia.” Says David   

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