Engineers Become Geographers: A New Project Is Giving Engineering Students the Chance to Solve Real-World Problems Faced by Rural Ghanaians, an Example of Geography's Wide Remit, Says RGS-IBG Grants Officer Greg Dow

By Dow, Greg | Geographical, December 2005 | Go to article overview

Engineers Become Geographers: A New Project Is Giving Engineering Students the Chance to Solve Real-World Problems Faced by Rural Ghanaians, an Example of Geography's Wide Remit, Says RGS-IBG Grants Officer Greg Dow


Dow, Greg, Geographical


Many of the researchers who apply for funding from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) come from academic fields ostensibly outside geography. The work of zoologists, ecologists and those from other environmental sciences, not to mention that of sociologists and anthropologists, is very much part of the wider scope of geography, as the pages of this magazine attest each month. Occasionally, however, we support projects from teams doing valuable geographical work in academic fields far outside conventional geography.

One such team is ENGhana, which is made up of student engineers flora the University of Cambridge, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. The ENGhana team wanted to address an important issue among engineering students worldwide and ended up conducting an excellent geographical project that aided sustainable development of rural villages in the developing world.

Undergraduate engineering curricula throughout the world require students to create and implement independent design projects as part of their degree programme. Often, the projects that students choose are the same year after year, and have little potential for being useful outside of the classroom. However, many students are keen to find a way to use their engineering skills to help the world's poor, but lack detailed information about the challenges facing rural communities in developing countries.

The aim of the ENGhana expedition was to bring this information to eager students all over the world. ENGhana worked with local students and communities in rural Ghana to document the challenges that face rural areas and that could be solved through appropriate and sustainable engineering. …

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