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A boat race with a twist - Waikato University

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Supporters surrounded the Oranga Lake last week as 26 student-built boats battled it out for the University’s annual Engineering Design Challenge - with a twist. This year’s boat race was all about sustainability, and students designed their boats specifically to clear bits of plastic from the water.

Launched in 2003, Waikato’s engineering boat race has become a tradition at the university. Engineering lecturer Dr Rob Torrens organises the event each year to give students a practical experience early on in their degree.

"The paper introduces students to some of the core elements of engineering design and problem solving," he says.

This year, Dr Torrens modified the project so that the boats had to be capable of collecting floating plastic waste from the water, providing an extra challenge for the first-year students. He says it’s important to encourage them to think about the environmental impacts as well as the monetary cost of a design.

"All engineers should consider sustainability when designing a product and it’s something that Engineering New Zealand looks for during accreditation," he says. "Existing industries are increasingly aware of sustainability issues, and there’s a lot of potential for new industries in this space."

Team Egypt won the final competition, a surprise for students Tony Carpendale, Nashlin Sharma, Dion Herniman, Sultan Al-Habsi, Alaa Eldin Abuellif, Lee Oldfield and Kieran West, managed by fourth year students Russell Keenan and Ben Thornton.

Tony says it was a really interesting experience. "I think our team had the edge because each component of our boat performed in a manner it was designed to. We were lucky really, because we almost didn’t make the start-line in the quarter finals due to a radio transmitter malfunction - I’d like to say a big thank you to the teams that let us borrow theirs!"

The students even managed a win over the staff boat, part of the traditional race between students and lecturers.

Dr Torrens was happy with the success of the event. "It was great to have an added challenge for the students this year. I was really pleased that 26 groups were able to get boats on the water."

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