NUI Galway Engineering Students Volunteer in Africa

Monday, 2 November 2009

The College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway has initiated a programme that gives students the opportunity to work in developing countries. Through the Service Learning programme, undergraduate civil engineering students can undertake community-based learning as part of their academic courses. Students will work on projects such as house building, research activities, engineering and science workshops, and literacy programmes. As part of the programme NUI Galway is investigating innovative sustainable construction technology in Zambia, through collaboration with University of Zambia, Good Earth Trust, and the Alan Kerins African Projects. The initial phase of this project entitled 'Cost-effective Sustainable Construction Technology for Zambia' was completed in June by four third-year civil engineering students. With the assistance of the University of Zambia, an extensive literature review and laboratory tests were carried out using interlocking compressed earth blocks, also known as stabilised soil blocks, that replicated those currently used in Western Zambia. If adopted, these blocks can make a significant contribution to poverty reduction, improving the local environment and reducing carbon emissions. The project also saw NUI Galway students, together with two qualified engineers, travel to Western Zambia in August on a 'fact-finding mission'. This visit was used to gather further information on materials available locally that could be used in the manufacture of cost-effective sustainable construction techniques. Further tests to develop innovative composite materials will involve two research projects at NUI Galway which will run in parallel until April 2010. NUI Galway engineering students also ran workshops for orphan children in the remote village of Kaoma. The workshops were developed in collaboration with the Irish engineering professional body, Engineers Ireland, and were designed to encourage the children to explore the world of science and engineering. Speaking on the new initiative Dr Jamie Goggins, Lecturer in the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway said: "Working in developing countries is a great way to improve your technical skills, broaden your horizons and gain invaluable working experience. Getting a job in communities less fortunate than your own can be a very fulfilling experience. It is extremely rewarding to know that your efforts are helping others to help themselves and working towards alleviating inequality and poverty". NUI Galway Engineering students have also taken part in other volunteering projects in Africa. Over the summer, nine final-year engineering students volunteered for two months in Bahir Dar, in the north of Ethiopia, working on a house building project and helping with a literacy programme.
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