Building Community Leaders; traditionally a two day in-person workshop for university Chapter committees from across the UK, evolved into a series of virtual sessions for both Chapter committee members and academics who run the Engineering for People Design Challenge and Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. During the series, we ran 11 separate sessions covering a myriad of topics including, an introduction to Engineers Without Borders UK, skills needed for the year ahead and facilitation techniques suitable for the virtual environment.

Not only did this training series provide space for the Engineers Without Borders UK team to present key learnings that drive our movement forward, it also created an opportunity for our community to meet, share ideas and learn from one another- building strong collaborative networks for a year that will look like no other.

“I thoroughly enjoyed this series, specifically the breakout rooms where we could discuss ideas and meet new people in a friendly way – we were encouraged by the Engineers Without Borders UK Team to share our ideas and have important conversations!”

Toni, EWB Glasgow President

With the event taking place over Zoom, the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was never far from conversation. The academics, in particular, took time to discuss the implications of the “new normal” on delivering the Design Challenges. This discussion resulted in reflections on the engineering curriculum as a whole, with specific interest given to how unchanged and outdated so much of the syllabus content is, and how the new virtual environment is providing opportunity for experimentation in delivery. Subsequently, the merits of a project based learning approach became clear, with many academics favouring this pedagogy for design modules, during both physical and digital delivery.

The challenges of this year’s virtual reality became increasingly clear, but we also took time to explore what opportunities the new medium for delivery presents. In an increasingly digitally saturated world, where an average attention span is just eight seconds, the value of pre recorded content that can be accessed at any time for students who may be studying anywhere in the world, is becoming progressively clear. This year the Engineering for People Design Challenge and Efficiency for Access Design Challenge are being launched virtually, with pre-recorded content being provided to compliment any “live” delivery.

Chapters also discussed the opportunities of the virtual environment, suggesting that events could now be more collaborative as a result of dissolved geographic boundaries, encouraging them to work together to drive change. Specifically, they explored the idea of a collaborative online Designathon (a time bound design challenge creating socially responsible solutions) and speaker events open for Chapter members to attend on a national scale.

If you are an active Chapter member or academic running either the Engineering for People Design Challenge and/or Efficiency for Access Design Challenge and missed the training, please find recordings of all the sessions here. We look forward to seeing what innovations can emerge from the new format, but crucially encourage the continuation of social distancing as many head back to university in the next few weeks.

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch at [email protected].