Interdisciplinary innovation course trains Sierra Leonean engineering students in solving water challenges in West Africa
Students at DTU often bring the latest technical expertise to the technical-humanitarian organization Engineers Without Border’s (IUG) development projects.
This year, 60 BEng students collaborate with engineering students from Sierra Leone in a challenge to provide basic access to water in the West African country. This happens as part of the Innovation Pilot course, which is a course, where students work with specific challenges or ideas defined by companies.
IUG’s local partner Water4Ever also takes part in the collaboration.
Peder Veng Søborg, who is an associate professor at DTU Engineering Technology and teaches the students, believes that the collaboration is constructive:
“This sort of collaboration is important because as a trained engineer, excellent problem-solving skills is of utmost importance. That is why our approach to innovation is not necessarily that students should invent an entirely new product. They are welcome to do so, but it is essentially about adding value to something.”
Supports sustainable development
Project employee Hassan Masaray is very pleased with the collaboration. He says that the biggest challenge for them is about supplying the amount of water that can meet the consumer demand.
“Generally speaking, Sierra Leone has a lot of water be it underground or surface, but the issue always is how to make this water safe and accessible by the public in a sustainable way,” says Hassan Masaray from Water4Ever.
The social enterprise focuses on sustainable development goal 6, which is to create a lasting solution to the water crisis in Sierra Leone by providing water that is safe, affordable and accessible.
Water4Ever has together with IUG established five small water facilities in Grafton, Sierra Leone. Here the inhabitants can come and fill water in their big cans for a fee. Photo: IUG
A world of difference
One of the engineering students participating in the Innovation Pilot is Alfred Mbayoh from Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone. His task is to aid the Danish students with their solution proposals.
“My country is a developing country that has many challenges compared to an industrial country like Denmark. We struggle with access to clean drinking water and electricity. So our stay is about taking advantage of all the competencies and tools that the students at DTU and Danish companies can offer,” says Alfred Mbayoh, who is in his fifth year of studies.
One of the first things Alfred noticed was DTU’s modern facilities and new equipment. The course takes place at DTU Skylab, where students have access to the innovation hub’s prototype workshops and labs. Subsequently, he was equally impressed by the way DTU’s engineering education is put together:
“Our engineering education in Sierra Leone is very theoretical, but in Denmark it is very hands-on. The way in which the students collaborate with their teachers and develop innovative ideas for the industry is all something to write home about,” says Alfred Mbayoh.
The ngo Water4ever collaborates with engineering students from Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, who obtain practical skills by participating in the construction and maintenance of water utilities.
Concrete, usable solutions
Back on the course, Alfred’s knowledge of local conditions has helped the DTU students understand the challenges of Sierra Leone. Markus Swane Lund, who studies Civil Engineering and is in his sixth semester, is part of a group of six students from different engineering study lines. They have developed a solution, which can be implemented immediately and creates the most value for the residents.
“We are developing a tool, that we call a futuremachine, which can give an estimate of how long it will take from the time Water4Ever opens a new water facility until the investment pays off. The problem definition that we settled on is about securing future population growth,” says Markus about the solution that the group will pitch for IUG