Gold engineer brings eco-solution to Tongan school
Tonga's second largest secondary school is saving approximately USD588 a day on ground water pumping costs, thanks to the effort and skill of a seven-person student engineering team, which included Gold Award participant Daniel Scott.
Daniel, an engineering student from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, was part of an Engineers Without Borders team which helped Tonga College to find a sustainable solution to its energy costs. His role in designing and installing a solar-powered pump also enabled him to complete his Gold Service section
High energy costs
Tonga, an archipelago of 176 islands in the South Pacific, depends almost entirely on imported diesel fuel for energy generation. Not only is that energy sourced at a high cost to the country, especially in the light of rising global fuel prices, but the use of diesel generators has a hugely negative impact on the environment. Alternative sources of energy are increasingly being targeted as a way to reduce the country’s fuel bill.At the invitation of Tonga College, and endorsed by the Tongan Minister of Education, the Engineers Without Borders team installed a 1.4 kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) powered water pumping system. This will provide the school with a guaranteed and sustainable source of water for the lifetime of the pump.Daniel played a key role in designing the housing for the pump and solar panels, purchasing the pump, and fitting the components. He also supported fundraising efforts to raise the NZD40,000 (USD33,000) needed to pay for the project, and liaised with teachers and students at the school during its construction.
Benefits for all
It wasn’t an easy project to complete, requiring not just technical skills but also interpersonal ones as Daniel kept in touch with the school community to understand their needs. However, the results have been well worth the challenge. The pump serves as an ongoing educational tool for the 1300 school students, and ensures that the school has much more money available to invest in materials and facilities.Daniel too has reaped rewards through the growth in his skills and confidence: “The highlight of the project for me was to see all our ideas and planning come to fruition with going to Tonga, seeing our project constructed and helping the people from the school."Seeing this happen was something that really gave me confidence in what we as a team had achieved, and also in my own contribution and the skills I had developed. I remember preparing some drawings that were sent to Tonga as a guide to building a small building for the solar panels, and I was so surprised when it was nearly built as I had imagined after we arrived.”
A future career
Following the successful completion of this project, Daniel hopes to tackle more engineering and environmental challenges in the Asia Pacific region: “I am now actively pursuing an engineering career with a long term goal of helping people from the Pacific region with sustainable technology.”He is in no doubt that the Award has influenced his choice of career: “I could have never anticipated how much doing the Award influenced where I am today. I think the key reason to do the Award is to really discover what you enjoy doing and what you are best at."Perhaps this is one of the main things that young people really struggle with – finding what they want to do and actually doing it. The possibilities of the Award are endless and available for everyone, but it is guaranteed you will expand your horizons and increase your employability.”
New Zealand student speaks up on poverty
Frustrated at the perception that young people don’t care about social issues such as poverty, a student from Dunedin has used a skill for public speaking to instil passion amongst her peers for global development issues.
Katya Curran, whose public speaking work formed part of the Skills section of her Silver Award, is driven by the belief that young people need more exposure to social challenges to awaken their innate compassion and sense of fairness. Seeing ignorance rather than apathy as the reason for her peers’ lack of engagement in poverty, she believed education and awareness raising was the solution.
A global challenge
Katya is clear that poverty is one of the biggest challenges facing the international community. Writing in her local paper, the Otago Daily Times, she explains: “The shocking reality is that more than 20,000 people die of starvation every day. Yet this news gets pushed aside.” Moreover, she believes the youth of New Zealand is able and willing to effect change on a global level. “Although the hunger problem is complex, it would be incorrect to infer there is nothing we can do to break the cycle.”
She set about her task by organising and leading several social action groups as well as being part of national forums and events in this arena. She has also been researching, writing and delivering her own speeches on poverty and social action.
She delivered 25 speeches to audiences including Rotary International, the Lions Club, the Dunedin Community House and St Hilda’s Collegiate School, and has reached an estimated 700-900 people directly. The number of people she has reached indirectly through the spread of awareness as a result of events, activities, speeches and articles is immeasurable .
She has also promoted fair trade (which culminated in her school qualifying as a fairtrade school), meeting Harriet Lamb (the visiting executive director of the UK Fairtrade Foundation), and organised and led her school in the 40 Hour Famine, raising more for charity than her school has ever done before.
Katya’s evident leadership skills have been recognised through national and international organisations, who have been keen to encourage her talent. She was selected as a Youth MP by the Ministry of Youth Development in New Zealand, and attended the Youth Parliament, where she had the opportunity to deliver a speech in the Debating Chamber of the House.
Katya was one of 50 New Zealand senior high school students who took part in the UNICEF Youth Congress in Auckland, where the theme was ‘Poverty in the Pacific’. Speaking about this achievement to her local paper, she commented that, “The issues of today are as much our responsibility as anyone else's and I think global awareness is really important from a young age. Everyone deserves respect and the right to be heard.”
Recognised by her school, St Hilda’s Collegiate School, through a prize for public speaking, Katya dreams of spreading poverty awareness to other local high schools, the University of Otago, and the Dunedin City Council (she has already been invited to be part of the council's Youth Action Committee). Her aim is not to create followers, but to inspire leaders and inspire action.
Taking up public speaking for her Award has certainly launched Katya on an incredible journey, which promises to shape her future career. “I have definitely gained new skills and it has most certainly affected my life course. It has consolidated the fact that I want my career to be focused on social action and global change.”