NUI Galway engineering students take time out to lend a hand in their communitie

Monday, 15 March 2004

A poster exhibition, illustrating the work of NUI Galway's third-year Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering students who have engaged in voluntary work, will open today (Monday), at 5.00 p.m., in the University Art Gallery.

The posters are the product of an initiative, which encourages students to get involved in voluntary community-related activities. It is the first year of this project in which 50 students have participated.

"Assignments that Inspire and Distinguish Engineers" (AIDE), is the title of the unique programme, which is the first of its kind in engineering in any university in Ireland. It is co-ordinated by Dr Abhay Pandit of the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering.

The project is part of the academic programme for students and is supported by the University's Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI), which is co-ordinated by Jacinta Barrins. It is designed to encourage students to voluntarily commit some of their time and energy to the benefit of local communities and individuals outside the family.

The AIDE project included a number of lecture modules in which guest speakers addressed the students on the principles of volunteering, corporate and social responsibility, and the relevance of volunteering to the engineering profession. Students were then asked to identify a need in their locality and volunteer thirty hours of assistance towards it.

"At first the students were sceptical of the relevance of the initiative to their lives," says Dr. Pandit. "They felt their only responsibility was to pass their exams and get on with their careers. Very quickly, however, they discovered that volunteering brought a very important dimension to their lives and that making a contribution to society by way of volunteering was a most fulfilling experience. The students also realised that they didn't have to look very far in their own communities to identify areas where a helping hand was needed."

"We are planting a seed here", continues Dr. Pandit. "University students are in some form privileged and need to be aware of the social needs of their communities. They need to reach out across race, class and gender and share their skills and their time with people in need. We hope that participating in AIDE will make a lasting impression on them and make them responsive to the needs of whatever community they are part of throughout their lives."

Some students got involved in groups such as Lions Clubs, Alzheimers groups, Cancer Care West and local sport groups, while others assisted people recovering from serious illnesses by providing support or building assistive devices.

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