UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering


MSc students win Engineers without Borders award

30 July 2021

CEGE MSc students win the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge, delivered by Engineers without Borders

Photos of Daniel Hetzel, Kushma Thapa, Simran Nair and Safia Whitwham

We are delighted that a team of MSc Engineering for International Development students have won this year’s Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. The team, comprised of Daniel Hetzel, Kushma Thapa, Simran Nair and Safia Whitwham, won with their project Design of a Vaccine Refrigeration Unit. Their project looked at designing an active cool box (ACB), which aims to bridge the gap between cool boxes and vaccine refrigerators, in order to deliver life-saving vaccines to communities with limited cold chain capacities. We spoke to them to find out more.

  • What was your project on?

Vaccine Refrigeration, Active Cool Box (ACB). We chose to design a refrigerating unit that bridged the gap between an active stationary vaccine refrigerator unit and a passive cool box which utilises ice packs to provide cooling. We felt by electrifying the cool box to bring active cooling we could prolong performance and drastically reduce wastage in vaccinations which put enormous social and economic strain on communities.

  • What made you choose the project?

The reality of vaccine wastage being close to 50% due to inadequacies in the cold chain for many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The urgency of vaccine rollout programmes, especially with today's very relevant context, and gap in last mile delivery made us choose the project even though none of us had much knowledge about refrigeration.

  • What did you enjoy the most about the project?

The unfolding of all the stages of the project was interesting. It is difficult to isolate one part, but we all enjoyed how different stages tied together and previous research determined answers for future problems/questions. It was enlightening when we tied it together with our industry partner who provided excellent insight and we certainly enjoyed producing the detailed design and 3D renderings and seeing our creating come alive on screen.

  • What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

The most challenging part was designing a project without access to resources and in-person discussion with the teammates. All of us were working in different components of the product and to put them together and develop design via online discussions was challenging.

  • You had an industry mentor, how did this help you?

Phenomenally. A business perspective on different ideas we produced helped us to pin down the final design during a period where we were struggling to cohesively select an idea. It was great to get different insights from the industry partner in terms of technology, cost, user needs and feasibility of the product.

  • Can you describe your experience on the MSc Engineering for International Development in 3 words?

Kushma - Surprising, Rewarding, Inspiring

Daniel – Enlightening, Motivating, Frustrating (regarding the vast scale of the world’s problems)

Simran - Eye-opening, Engaging, Thought-provoking

Safia - Intriguing, Challenging and Fulfilling