In late November 2015, Engineering Good held its second annual keynote event. Titled #discoverHEart, we wanted it to really be an open platform for everyone, engineers and non-engineers alike, to engage in an interactive discourse on what is at the heart of humanitarian engineering (HE), as well as to explore the art of this field. Empowered by a bold vision towards the promotion of HE and supported by our fast growth over the past year as an organisation, this event was a lot more ambitious than any other we’d organized before. It included many different components that, when pieced together, formed a comprehensive set of activities meant to showcase different aspects of the art and the heart of HE: who are the core people in HE, what skills and attributes do they possess, what is the role of technology in international development and social justice, what can we all do locally to promote and embody the values of HE, and more.
The November activities were preceded by a competition that ran from August all the way to the end of October 2015. In some way, this competition was a warm up before the main activities – we wanted people to start reflecting on what HE meant to them, before we could all gather together and share our respective visions. Open to all, it offered participants a unique opportunity to critically reflect on what HE is all about, and then tell us through an artistic media of their choice (be it a video, an animation, a poster, a drawing, an essay, anything really).
From 24 to 29 November 2015, we then organized a number of activities to let people learn more about HE and share with us and with others about it.
Clockwise from main photo: 1. The Engineering Good team with Guest-of-Honour, Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development 2. Prize-giving ceremony for the winners of our #discoverHEart competition 3 & 4. Exhibition showcase on different facets of humanitarian engineering 5. Superheores visit our photobooth! 6. Members of the public participating in the Universal Design Challenge
An exhibition showcasing the different facets of humanitarian engineering was set up and made accessible to the general public, at the Bugis+ Civic Plaza. On top of informative panels (some of which can be found here and here), we set up a number of interactive exhibits and activities to let people experience first-hand some of the aspects being discussed. People got to test some apps specifically designed to help people with disabilities, play with toys purposely designed for children with special needs, try their hand at designing an accessible bathroom (thanks to our friends at Dignitas SG for facilitating the activity!), and more. Photos can be found in our Facebook album.
We also organized a documentary screening of ‘The Humanitarian Engineer’, which is the brainchild of EWB Australia’s Sheena Ong and discusses the role that engineers can – and do – play in humanitarian efforts. It was followed by a panel discussion, with panelists Mr Mano Karan from Dignitas SG, Mr Teo Kian Lip from Lien Aid, and Dr Rajnish Gupta from IEEE, moderated by Ms Farheen Mukri, in which we had an interactive discussion about some of the issues raised within the documentary.
Finally, we organized two hands-on workshops in which the goal was to re-engineer remote control cars so that they can be used by children with disabilities. Participants moved from station to station in groups, working together dismantling, wiring, soldering and assembling the controls as they went along. By the end of the workshop, all groups had built their own modified RC car, which was then donated to our partner schools for kids with special needs. Participants had a great time, as can be seen from the pictures!
All in all, it was a very fun and successful week for us! We had dozens of interesting and insightful conversations with people from varied backgrounds and managed to get the word out about HE to people that would not otherwise have been exposed to it.
In closing, we would like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to all of our volunteers who made this event possible, as well as to each and every person who participated in it, one way or another. We hope to see you in one of our events again this year, so that together we can grow the humanitarian engineering movement in Singapore!