malapoa-students-women-engineersIn celebration of World Engineering Day (4th March), Malapoa College held the first event in an Engineering Outreach Program to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to high school students.

The program encourages future school leavers to pursue engineering and address the skill shortage in providing for Vanuatu’s future infrastructure.

Malapoa alumni, who recently joined the Department of Water Resources and Department of Public Works, lead the event and provided valuable insight into how to pursue a career in engineering. Raviky Talae taught the principles of Vanuatu’s water distribution system to excited students with a practical model, while Kelera Buleuru spoke of her role in co-ordinating the new desalination unit in Aniwa and Richie Kaising talked about upgrading the road system around Port Vila and Efate.

With four women leading the activities on the day, an emphasis was put on promoting women in engineering. Aetrian Robert gave a presentation on her career path as a hydraulic engineer and outlined the pathways available for women to enter the industry. After the presentations, Aetrian spoke informally with the students answering their questions about the day to day as an engineer and offered further guidance.

“Inspiring girls from a young age about creative aspects of engineering is key to recruiting more women to the sector,” Kelera Buleuru said of the day, “Engineering involves everyone and has an effect on all our lives, that’s why the sector needs greater diversity. As women in the male dominant field in engineering, our voices matter and are essential to problem solving. There is more opportunity today for women to make positive change than ever before.”

The day finished with team challenges that encouraged students to think creatively and scientifically in achieving a practical goal. Students competed to build the tallest tower out of toothpicks and marshmallows, prevent an egg from breaking when dropped from a second story balcony and took part in an exercise to improve access to sanitation facilities for at risk members of the community.

The presentations were “very helpful” according to one 17-year-old student. “It helps us to pursue our future careers”. The practicals were “so interesting, especially in problem solving”. The Principal of Malapoa College, Shem B. Simon, mirrored these comments and said, “The response I got from the students was positive and they were very much engaged in the hands-on activities”.

This first outreach event proved to be a great success. In future engineering workshops, the team will seek to include a broader range of engineering disciplines such as Energy and Transport. Vanuatu has many exciting emerging industries in the science and technology fields, and it will be invaluable to attract the next generation of engineers to meet the opportunities of the future.

This program was done in collaboration with the Department of Water Resources, the Department of Public Works and Engineers Without Borders, with volunteers supported by Volunteer Service Abroad and the Australian Volunteer Program.

The Engineers Without Borders (EWB) program is a joint EWB Australia and EWB New-Zealand program, receiving support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).