In August, the Royal Academy of Engineering invited finalists from our Engineering for People Design Challenge to take part in their Global Collaboration Lab competition. Unlike our challenge which requires students to weave their innovation throughout the academic year, this challenge requires competitors to produce a design within days of receiving their brief. We were thrilled to learn that Amrit, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student from Heriot-Watt university and finalist from the Engineering for People Design Challenge 2018/19, had progressed to the finals and would be presenting at the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019.

EmPads, the international team Amrit participated in, focused on the lack of access to sanitary hygiene products that millions of women are still facing. By utilising their collective knowledge and experience, EmPads decided to begin by concentrating on India. Amrit described how the team focused on a low cost, sustainable solution with effective outreach – setting them apart from the competition. He went on to explain;

“… the frugal innovation in this product is that we are using textile waste, the byproduct of fast fashion created by western nations… thousands of tonnes of textile waste are being dumped in India, we want to take the material from this to create the sanitary towels.”

Their winning business model illustrated that the team would utilise an already recognised textile hub Panipat, India, where an above average rate of the workforce is female. There, the materials would be stripped, cleaned and cut. To distribute, EmPads highlighted the India Company Act of 2013. This Act grants some leverage for EmPads to appeal to commercial conglomerates who have a corporate social responsibility, providing an opportunity to access their vast distribution channels to some of the most secluded locations in the country. This distribution is what Amrit believes is EmPads most crucial attribute. He admits,

“…that is something that I didn’t consider when I was doing the Engineering for People Design Challenge, the focus was on to win the challenge, whereas with this competition I didn’t care much for the recognition, I cared more about getting the important message that there are so many women out there that don’t have access to this facility… that was what I was focusing on when I was giving my part of the pitch – the message is what is important.”

Not only did his motivation for this challenge evolve, but his determination to establish a University Chapter at Heriot-Watt has also become a priority. Before graduating, Amrit intends to educate his peers about the opportunities that he has been afforded as result of being involved with Engineers Without Borders UK, which has shaped his outlook on engineering and his future.

“For me now, I don’t [just] look at engineering as a way to design and build cool products or innovate or create, but instead for me I want to use engineering and the platform I have been provided… to spread the idea to try to do something to help people…even if I can help ten people that will be an achievement for me.”

This conscientious and globally responsible attitude towards engineering is precisely what the future of the industry requires. We are delighted to have played a role in Amrit’s early engineering career, highlighting the positive impact the industry can have. “I didn’t think this way one year ago…It all started with Engineers Without Borders UK, I am extremely grateful.””

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