Taps and toilets have the ability to change lives in the developing world. As an engineer, I have spent the majority of my career to date working in countries across Africa and Asia developing sustainable solutions to one of the world’s biggest crises. One in three people lack access to a toilet, while a tenth of the world has no access to safe water. Together, this leads to the deaths of around 900 under-fives every day.
There is no such thing as a ‘sustainable’ technology in engineering. Instead, the sustainability or appropriateness of technology depends on its fitness for purpose in a local context, as well a suitable introduction process.
SafetyNet Technologies’ primary goal is to design and build devices that increase the selectivity of commercial fishing practices. By being more selective with the fish caught, the industry becomes more sustainable. Light, which has been of interest to the fishing gear technology community since the 1970s, can be used as a tool to achieve this.
SafetyNet Technologies builds sophisticated LED systems that enables experimentation into how light can segregate between ages and species of fish. We then apply this knowledge to create simple sets of lights that help commercial crews catch the right fish.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Plumstead Manor School in Greenwich invited over 200 students from the area to join them in their celebrations. The event was organized by two sixth form students, Noor Ali and Janraj Khunkhun, and saw students aged from as young as 9 getting involved. Over the course of the day, the students had the chance to interact in workshops and hear from an array of speakers, showcasing the contribution of women in society and the roles that both men and women play to help create gender parity.
Speakers included Cllr Denise Hyland, a local councilor of the Borough of Greenwich and the first ever female leader of the borough; Pamela Oparaocha, station manager at Hornsey Fire Station and the only black woman to hold this role nationally; Elisha Foust, a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party; Matthew Pennycook, Member of Parliament for Greenwich and Woolwich; and QEPrize Ambassador Jaz Rabadia MBE, senior manager of energy at Starbucks.
When I was younger I used to enjoy tinkering in my dad’s shed, making jewellery with his soldering iron. At school, I loved technology and design and enjoyed the freedom of being creative. Engineering is an incredibly creative subject with no limitations to what you can do. As a subject, it gives you the tools to create and build anything you can imagine.
After leaving school I studied mechanical engineering at Ulster University, spending a year abroad at St Martin’s University in Washington, USA. When I returned from the States, I decided to continue my engineering education, this time heading to the Centre for Renewable Energy at Dundalk Institute of Technology in Ireland.
The best – and worst – part of working in a startup is that there’s always something that needs to be done urgently, and it’s usually not something you’ve ever done before. When starting new projects, you sometimes benefit from what you’ve learned on previous ones, or from the experiences and best practices of your colleagues. Most of the time, however, you’re learning on the go, trying to figure out all the parameters of a problem while trying to solve it. Even when you find a solution, it will often still only be a prototype or the first iteration of many to come.
Every child, no matter where they are born, should have the right to a healthy life. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Africa for a long time. Common killer diseases still claim a huge number of lives, and every day we are bombarded with images of pain in the media. These diseases have been the top causes of children’s death throughout the continent time and time again.
Nearly 1.4 million children under the age of five die from pneumonia each year. This accounts for one in five child deaths globally. All those human lives turn into one more news story, and while headlines might change, the pain that mothers endure does not easily go away.
Luca Alessandrini is an innovator and designer from Italy who is making waves in the world of acoustic engineering. The last big disruption in musical materials is noted as the rise of carbon fibre in the 1970s. Modern acoustic materials have since become disposable, often made from plastics or their derivatives.
The materials used in speakers, amplifiers and musical instruments are often unsustainable. Plastics are toxic when burned and produce a lot of waste as they are rarely recyclable. Even wooden parts are often found to be off key with nature. To Luca, this sounded like the perfect opportunity for innovation.
I am 23 and I have just graduated from Brunel University with a master’s degree in civil engineering.
What influenced you when you were at school?
Throughout my school life, I have always veered towards maths and science subjects at school. This stemmed from a teacher who gave me courage and self-belief when she told me that I was good at maths at the age of seven!
Another teacher suggested engineering as a career choice when I was 14 – again giving me the confidence to enter what is still viewed by many as a male-dominated industry.