NUI Galway Engineering students making a difference to their communities

Monday, 19 February 2007

19 February 2007: An exhibition of posters by Engineering students at NUI Galway have proved that the priorities of a student extend beyond a healthy social life and passing exams. As part of an Engineering in Society module offered to third-year Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering students, participants developed devices for the physically impaired, a road safety initiative on roundabouts and provided engineering workshops for children with learning disabilities.

The poster exhibition entitled "Engineering in Society and Community Outreach", describing the projects takes place this week in the Arts Millennium Building. The Engineering in Society module is an intrinsic part of the academic programme taken by students in the third-year Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering programme. It is designed to encourage students to commit some of their time and energy to the benefit of local communities.

Professor Abhay Pandit, Department of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering and co-ordinator of the initiative says: "This is a wonderful opportunity for the students to put something back into their communities. 'Service Learning,' where students use their skills to see how they can be of use to the community is commonplace in most American universities but is a relatively new concept in Ireland. In our programme, students identify a need in their locality and provide a service, with the input from the local community, towards assisting with that need. The program is designed to foster a partnership for the next generation of citizens to engage in social partnerships, specifically in the skill set they know best; i.e. Engineering."

The module is supported by the University's Centre for Excellence in Learning and Training (CELT). Lorraine McIlrath, Academic Staff Developer at CELT, describes the projects as "a massive achievement and a great inspiration to staff and students locally and nationally".

In one of the projects a simple boiled egg top remover, 'The Egg Chopper Off'r' was designed for people with limited or no use of one arm, such as those suffering from arthritis, stroke victims or amputees. "We researched the idea and designed a prototype which was a success but needs continued development in order to make it more user-friendly and accessible to those who need it." said Kiel McCool, who designed the device along with Aoife Heneghan.

In another project, a group of four students facilitated engineering workshops with students at the Galway Association's St Joseph training centre. The Engineering students introduced methods of engineering drawing and spatial awareness through the workshops which proved intellectually stimulating to those involved. "We chose to focus our project on helping students with intellectual disabilities," said Lorna Ryan. "We showed them how to visualise a 3-D object from different views and represent this in a technical drawing."

The poster exhibition is open to the public from Friday 23rd February to Friday 2nd March 2007.

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