CDU students win national award for Vietnam project 

CDU students Nathan Schultz, Michelle Pollard and Lucy Dwyer took out the BHP Biliton Award for Consideration to Sustainable Design and Community Engagement at the Engineers Without Borders National Showcase

A trio of Charles Darwin University students has won a national competition that promotes innovative solutions to issues faced by the world’s poorest nations.

Last night in Melbourne, the three Design and Innovation: Communicating Technology students won the BHP Biliton award for Consideration of Sustainable Design and Community Engagement for their innovative hand washing station. The device addresses poor hygiene practices in the An Minh community in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region.

Lucy Dwyer said she and her teammates Michelle Pollard and Nathan Schultz were proud to be the first CDU team ever to proceed to the Engineers Without Borders National Showcase, let alone to take out a top prize.

“When researching the project, we found out that the spread of disease can easily be overcome through simple improvements to hygiene practices, such as washing hands with soap,” Lucy said.

“With this in mind, we designed a portable hand washing station that could be used as a tap in An Minh homes.

“In order to suit the local conditions the station had to be constructed from inexpensive, readily available, environmentally friendly and durable materials, so we made it out of a recyclable water bottle, bamboo, rope and wire.

“We came up with a design that costs as little as US$17 to make, but can reduce potentially fatal diarrhoeal disease by more than 40 per cent.

“We proposed that culturally appropriate hygiene messages be passed down from community elders, as well as communicated through instructions provided in native language.”

Lucy, Michelle and Nathan were among some 8000 engineering, architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, science, business and social science students across Australia to enter the EWB Challenge.

The challenge was coordinated by EWB and delivered in partnership with Australasian universities to teach students about design, teamwork and communication through cross-cultural development projects that support EWB’s global activities.

Submissions must make a direct contribution towards EWB’s work in addressing the social, environmental and economic issues facing people living in Third World conditions.

The team received the award at the Australian Association for Engineering Education gala dinner, held in the Olympic Room at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last night.