Award-Winning Employees!

We’re pleased and immensely proud to announce that Natasha Wilson, one of our development engineers who joined in July 2020, has been awarded the Institute of Mechanical Engineer’s (IMechE) Scholarship Visionary Award 2020, for her drive to use engineering as tool for positive change and development.

Here’s her acceptance video, filmed in Uganda on the site of one our cold-stores, working with Eco-Life HQ. She talks through a typical day on the job (with interruptions from a very loud cockerel).

The shortlist for the award was based on annual reports submitted to the Scholarship Awards Committee during her integrated masters degree. When shortlisted, she was asked to produce a short synopsis covering what she is currently doing for the IMechE or Engineering, and what she thought the future for engineering is. Here is her response that won her the award!

After graduating I spent 11 months as a mechanical engineer in an international, fast-paced, and collaborative technical consultancy, working on medical diagnostic devices (COVID included) and sustainable plastic alternatives. However, as consultancy work is by nature very profit driven, the majority of our work benefited those who were already privileged, working alongside wealthy clients. Having spent 8-weeks working on sanitation and clean water projects in Tanzania as a student, I decided to return to the non-profit sector, where I believed my skills could be applied most meaningfully. I now work for Smart Villages Research Group, a small but globally-backed organisation interested in the transformative power of appropriate technology and innovation for development impact, primarily in rural African communities. Their integrated community-led approach aligns with my belief that engineering should be a tool for positive change and development, focussing on the human, and environmental benefits. My work involves collaborating closely with our international partners in developing countries, sharing my engineering expertise, and helping them develop and install new technology and systems to improve the quality of life of rural off-grid communities.

If you ask anyone about the future of engineering, their response is bound to include at least one of this generation’s buzzwords: ‘IoT’, ‘AI’ or ‘Machine Learning’. Undoubtedly, the huge leaps made in information engineering and connectivity have already transformed the way we live: the ‘IoT future’ that I read about before starting my engineering degree is no longer a dream but a reality; COVID has fast-tracked us into the digital age, forcing even sceptics into remote working and technology adoption. The importance of multidisciplinary design is increasingly important, and as all devices and systems become ‘connected’, a purely mechanical project is almost a thing of the past. ‘Smart’ machines seem to know what we want even before we know we want it! This is the future that engineering brings us: ever increasing convenience, comfort and efficiency.

There is, however, a risk that these developments will continue to widen the gap between those with and without access to technology. I personally hope that as our technology here improves, so will our ability to apply it in helping the developing world. Examples could include cheaper, decentralised, renewable energy mini-grids, and digital, remote healthcare and education systems, specifically designed to complement the limited existing infrastructure in developing countries. Just as the Space Race resulted in technological advances that now benefit our everyday lives, I hope that our future technological leaps in the developed world will have benefits that continue to reach back to the developing world, and through engineering, we can help achieve a future free of poverty.

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