Winners of the Engineers in Business competition, team Water Porter.

Notts undergrads awarded for engineering innovation

Three teams of undergraduates from Nottingham University Business School (NUBS) have won Engineers in Business awards for developing engineering solutions to social problems.

“Some of the most important global challenges we face today are not just technical ones, but require the ability to link technologies to an understanding of the market mechanism, business skills and entrepreneurial commercial thinking,” said David Falzani, Engineers in Business president and honorary Professor in Sustainable Wealth Creation at NUBS. 

“These challenges include delivering and growing secure and affordable supplies of clean water and of energy, to meet the needs and expectations of a fast-growing global population. This competition inspires students to think about big issues and to create potential solutions.” 

First place in the Engineers in Business competition went to the Water Porter team, which developed a multi-purpose lightweight barrel designed to transport large volumes of water using a removable, extendable handle. 

“The barrel would be a sustainable product that could have a life-changing impact in developing countries,” said team member Fatin Zabidi Azhar. “The product would be made from strong plastic so that it can sustain rough terrains and the plastic could be recycled when wear and tear occurs from long-term use.” 

The team was awarded £1,500 for its idea and each member will be assigned a career mentor from Sainsbury Management Fellows. 

Second place – and a prize of £1,000 – went to team SpeakEasy team for its tablet that assists communication between the hearing and deaf by converting user’s voice messages into text via voice recognition software and a finely tuned microphone, as well as converting text to audio so that people without a voice can be heard. 

In third place, with £500, was team Sol-Ice, whose concept to help African street vendors by keeping their food cool is currently patent pending. 

“We’re very excited by the potential of our innovation, which means that the concept is under wraps for now,” said team member Philip Cohen. 

The competition, sponsored by the Engineers in Business Fellowship, was run in conjunction with NUBS’ Entrepreneurship and Business module. Together they take the teams – a mix of students including engineering undergraduates – through the ‘ingenuity process’ from identifying a problem and brainstorming ideas through to selecting a viable concept, product development and marketing processes – all developing entrepreneurial thinking.

“We learned a range of new skills, in particular the experience taught us the importance of working as a cohesive team in order to develop an idea, as well as communication skills to present our concept with conviction,” said SpeakEasy team member Freddy Heppell. 

“Our team found the experience extremely useful – the ingenuity process provides a guide to clear thinking,” continued Cohen. “We learned that in order to have good ideas, you must generate a huge amount and then sift down to the best. Rather than a ‘light bulb moment’ or an innate skill, creativity is a long, thought out process that anyone can learn.”  

Other universities are invited to run ‘Engineers in Business’ competitions of their own. For more information, email Cathy Breeze at the Sainsbury Management Fellows office.

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