Mer Island, a small dot in the Torres Strait, halfway between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, is about as remote as you can get and still be part of Australia.

For a group of final-year engineering students, the chance to travel to the island was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  The purpose of the trip was to take part in an innovative teaching program designed to motivate and inspire students to think differently about what it means to be an engineer.

The group was challenged through a design competition to consider ways to improve the quality of life for the 450-strong community, which relies on diesel for electricity, desalination for water supply and waste disposal via landfill and burning off.

Their ideas won a showcase event hosted by Nura Gili at the end of first semester 2015 and attended by more than 170 industry, academic, university and high-school students.

The program, part of the ‘Planning Sustainable Infrastructure’ course, has received accolades for its ability to foster engagement with community and business, and its cross-faculty approach to teaching that brings together the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Nura Gili.

Professor Martin Nakata, director of the Nura Gili Centre for Indigenous Programs, says the course strives to help students understand how historical, cultural and environmental contexts impact design decisions.

The approach won the Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2015 Award for ‘Excellence in Engineering Education Engagement’ and a UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

Source: Times of India