Murdoch University student guides design team to engineer solutions for Nepalese community.

March 26, 2018

Murdoch student Melanie Hardman has returned from a Humanitarian Design Summit in Nepal, for which she received credit towards her degree in International Aid and Development.

Melanie Hardman, who is studying a Bachelor of International Aid and Development in Murdoch’s School of Business and Governance recently returned from a Humanitarian Design Summit in Nepal, organised by Engineers Without Borders Australia.

Melanie was responsible for facilitating a group of engineering and architecture students in developing skills in ‘human-centred design’, which is the development of user-friendly solutions that can have practical application.

The Humanitarian Design Summit Program provides participants with the opportunity to learn and apply the human-centred design approach to assist communities within a developing country.

Ms Hardman said the program provided an excellent opportunity for students and professionals alike to immerse themselves in another culture.

“The program allows the participants to reflect on the priorities of the people within that community and how we can work alongside them to design useful devices or systems that can make people’s everyday lives easier,” Ms Hardman said.

“The cross-disciplinary opportunities which stem from this program, allow industries to collaborate and reduce the assumptions and misinterpretations that come from ‘designing for’ instead of ‘designing with.’"

One of the key issues for the people in the village of Ramkot was access to water, which was stored in large drums between infrequent rainfalls, however the quality of this water for drinking could not be guaranteed.

Another concern was the town’s management of waste, with most households burning their waste, despite knowing that this practice was harmful to their health.

As such, the group of students worked on designing solutions to these and other challenges.

At the end of the summit, students presented their design ideas to members of the Ramkot community, which included: a bamboo gutter for local people to catch rainfall for future use; a collective waste disposal furnace; a water conservation project for grey water user, and modifications to the ‘doko’ basket, which is used for carrying water and timber.

Participants also proposed programs for career guidance; sustainable homestay tourism; educating women via an English teacher placement; and mentoring for young men who were planning to join the military. Another team of participants proposed a bee-keeping advisory to enable households to produce honey as a potential income stream.

For her role as facilitator at the summit, Ms Hardman will receive credit towards her Murdoch University degree, which was endorsed by Discipline Leader for Sustainability, Allan Johnstone.

“Murdoch’s provision for students to participate in activities, including Humanitarian Design Summit participation to receive credit towards their degree, demonstrates the ‘head, hands and heart’ study and work experiences we offer, and how Murdoch strives to develop future-enabled graduates with a global mindset,” Mr Johnstone said.

Ms Hardman said she found the experience working as a facilitator incredibly rewarding.

“I can see the benefit for students from multiple disciplines participating in a program such as this,” she said.

“The end result was engineers acknowledging the importance of meaningful engagement with remote communities in order to understand the local peoples’ needs from their perspective – and then being able to work with them to come up with new, and more effective solutions to everyday challenges.”

Melanie Hardman (front row, third from the right) facilitated one of the design teams at the Humanitarian Design Summit in Nepal, organised by Engineers Without Borders.


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Comments (One response)

Bob Fawcett March 27, 2018

I found it most interesting that a team were looking to enable households to produce honey as a potential income stream.
I have had Bees for many years and don't know why there are not more around in countries like Nepal.
Good food source and potential income.
This would not take a lot of setting up and training.


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