Access to clean water is sometimes taken for granted by the vast majority of people living in developed nations. With today’s access to technology, it may seem hard to fathom that in many parts of the world, access to potable water is still difficult. So, why couldn’t we simply port over the knowledge that possess, especially to rural areas? The Water for the World Workshop organised by Engineering Good for Hwa-Chong Junior College students aims to explore that.
In the interactive part of this workshop, students were split into small groups, with each team representing a different country (Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.) Tasked to create a working water filter, they were each given a different amount of funds, based on the relative real-world wealth of each country. They would then use the currency to purchase necessary materials to make their filter.
Lack of funds is only one of the difficulties faced by developing countries in helping citizens gain access to clean water. Technical challenges such as inefficient technologies can also be a major hurdle, as is the low level of literacy common to some rural areas. Applying this to the workshop for instance, the instructions as to how an ideal water filter should be built were left incomplete for some teams who represented developing countries. Students had to use their skills and prior knowledge to figure out how to build the most cost-effective and reliable water filter with the limited resources that they have.
Students also had to put on a different thinking hat when they had to simulate international relations. Countries possessing advanced technology traded their knowledge in exchange for funds or materials for their water filter. Some teams were also more generous, rendering help to lesser developed countries.
At the end of the activity, the water filters were tested for their effectiveness using muddy water.
What Students Say About It
Most people have the impression that the cutting-edge technology that we have access to can easily be ported to the developing countries to help them. The students agreed that while there has been a lot of media coverage and awareness regarding the lack of clean water in rural areas, little light has been shed on the complexity of the issues faced by these countries.
Here’s what some of them had to say:
“I really enjoyed the session. The trainers may seem young but they were very professional. They managed to keep us entertained and engaged. What I particularly liked was the fact that there were hands on activities and not just didactic lectures, making the session much more interesting. The trainers were well prepared in their materials and passionate about their area, which could be felt amongst the participants. I was thrilled to see their enthusiasm for such a good cause. There were fun moments such as when Indonesia “invaded” Singapore to get resources but the whole activity allowed me to gain insights into what the real world was like.”
“Though the hands-on session (where we construct the water filter) was simple, there were many lessons to be learnt here. I learnt that the world is a much more complicated place and diplomatic negotiations can be tough for any country. I learnt more about the importance and difficulty of obtaining clean water as well, and surprisingly, the richest countries may not necessarily produce the cleanest water. In today’s workshop, I was surprised that the team representing Indonesia was able to come up with the cleanest water among the four countries. I liked how the trainers were then able to link together the activity and real world implications, leaving a lasting impression on me as a student.”
We are thankful for the opportunity to be able to put our hearts and hands together for this wonderful workshop! To the student organizers, thank you for putting in all your effort to make this one a success. We’re looking forward to having more students join in the fun- while learning a thing or two about water and engineering good too (pun-intended)! If you’d like your school or organization to participate in this experience to create awareness, write in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.