The EWB Sheffield Outreach program has been a great success this year. As with all the other projects, we are devastated to have had to end so soon but can be proud of our accomplishments. In total, we delivered the EWB Water for Everyone Everywhere workshop to a total of eight year five and six classes in over five different primary schools in the Sheffield area.

As part of the Water for Everyone Everywhere workshop, we encouraged the classes to consider the ways that they use water in their daily lives and how difficult they would become if they were suddenly unable to access clean water less readily. Inevitably, most came up with initial responses like you would become smelly or you would die. However, with minimal guidance, they began to understand that not having access to clean water would affect all aspects of their lives. For example, in a recent session the issue of not being able to wash your hand was raised by a few students, something vital in ensuring public health but sometimes not available in less developed countries. Furthermore, the children were encouraged to consider the ways water is collected and distributed and the contaminants that can prevent water from being usable.

Of course, this was all just build-up to the main event, building a water filter. The children were all given coarse gravel, fine gravel, fine sand, cloth, a rubber band, a cotton wool ball, and a cut off 2-litre bottle in groups of four to five to construct their filters with. We were meant to have coarse sand as well, but I never got around to testing the sand I bought from B&Q. Something I’m sure all the volunteers got sick of explaining repeatedly to every class we went to! However, the kids didn’t seem to mind and built great filters anyway with minimal guidance from us. 

Then comes the testing, where I got to pour a weird concoction of mud and water into each filter one by one. Inevitably, I was always asked if the muddy water was, in fact, coke because of the 2L bottle it came from. However, after watching the water pour into the filters and the smell that it produced, the children were left with no doubt as to the contents of the bottle. Once the water had taken its time to seep through the sand and other materials; the children, and often the volunteers, were amazed that the filters managed to improve the water quality as much as they did. This activity, although very fun, is designed to get the children working together to create a solution to a real-world problem, the essence of being a real engineer. Throughout the sessions, the volunteers and I repeatedly stressed to the classes that the best way to solve many of the issues facing our world is to become an engineer and each of them have the power to make a positive impact.

After all the testing was done, we opened the floor to any and all questions the children may have about what they had done in the session today, what it means to be an engineer and university life. Usually, the children had very few questions about what we had just done in the workshop and instead wanted to hear about being an engineer at university. 

One common question was to ask what the coolest thing we had built was. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t built anything cool enough for the kids’ standards and instead had to turn to the experience of my volunteers. In one session a volunteer said that they had once built a fish that could swim around a pool for one of their modules. This hijacked the topic of any further questions the children had, all they wanted to hear about was the fish. Furthermore, we were always impressed by the interest the children had in studying at university and even becoming engineers at such a young age.  They often asked questions such as how long it takes to become an engineer, what sort of tests do I need to take, and what are some of the things I will end up doing. Even their more silly questions such as “Do you get lunch breaks?“ and “Will we have to walk in between classes?” were incredibly useful in helping them to understand what life at university is really like as opposed to what they hear from movies or TV shows, especially if none of their close family has been to university. 

To combat the challenges that we face currently and those of the future, the world needs more engineers.  Hopefully, through our Outreach sessions this year, children from a diverse range of backgrounds have learned more about what it means to be an engineer and maybe some that had never previously considered becoming one feel interested in pursuing it further. I have every faith that the future generations are more than capable of confronting these challenges and I hope that the work we have done this year has equipped them to achieve their dreams in some small way. Thanks for a great year everybody!

  • Seth Roberts is our outgoing Outreach officer. If you’d like to apply for this or another role on our committee, please email ewb@sheffield.ac.uk with a short video and written paragraph about why you are suited to the role. A full list of positions is available at: https://www.facebook.com/events/642094143244465/

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