Engineering Podcast Competition Winner Talks About Using VR to Solve Humanitarian Crises
The Engineer posted on September 05, 2017 | 1847 views

Over 150 students from North America, the UK and China took part in the recent How to Change the World podcast challenge, run by the University College London (UCL) Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) on behalf of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The podcasts were all produced at the Global Grand Challenges Summit in Washington, D.C. last month, which was jointly organized by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The Summit brought together science and engineering students and professionals from across the three hosting countries.

Bethany Gordon, engineering student from the University of Virginia, won judges’ choice at the How to Change the World Podcast Challenge. (Image courtesy of UCL.)

Bethany Gordon, engineering student from the University of Virginia, won judges’ choice at the How to Change the World Podcast Challenge. (Image courtesy of UCL.)

Bethany Gordon, an engineering student at the University of Virginia, is the winner of the unique podcast competition looking at how engineers can improve people’s lives.

Bethany’s How to change the world podcast shows listeners how engineers could use virtual reality to experience life in a temporary home in a shipping container in rural Armenia, the former Soviet republic that suffered a catastrophic earthquake in 1988. 

She proposes that, armed with this knowledge, engineers from around the world could collaborate remotely to crowdsource practical solutions to these types of humanitarian crises.

A moving and effectively communicated podcast made by Yun Gu (Peking University) and Katie Brown (Auburn University) was selected as the runner-up. Their recording looks at the barriers to women entering the engineering profession and how to tackle this issue. The winning podcast, as well as the runner up and the rest of the top ten podcasts, are available here.

Bethany Gordon, Yun Gu and Katie Brown will all receive fully-funded attendance at the next Global Grand Challenges Summit in London in 2019, organized by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

From raps to high-profile interviews, formal presentations and live discussions, the students participating in the competition translated their ideas from thoughts into audio in a range of ways, covering topics from providing access to clean water, to public engagement, to eco-friendly digital technologies.

“The audio element of the challenge really pushed the students to present their thoughts in a succinct and publicly accessible way. The teaching and judging teams were really excited to see how the students chose to communicate their ideas in a compelling way,” explained Jason Blackstock, head of department at UCL STEaPP, and director of How to Change the World.

Hayaatun Sillem, deputy chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, added, “Congratulations to these students for producing such fantastic podcasts. They have taken discussions from the Summit, and developed them into thought pieces that show clearly how the student and professional STEM community can contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“We believe that the Summit and the How to Change the World challenge have inspired the next generation of researchers and innovators to apply their talents to engineering a better world, and we hope to harness this momentum for the next Global Grand Challenges Summit in 2019,” Sillem said.

The judges included:

  • U.S. National Academy of Engineering PR chief Randy Atkins
  • ITV News science correspondent Alok Jha
  • Nature Jobs reporter Jack Leeming
  • Economist writer Oliver Morton
  • Yannis Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering

To learn more about the podcast challenge, visit the University College London website.

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