Sustainable Development Goals


Inspiring a new generation of engineers to embrace sustainability

A UCL student-led volunteering project, in collaboration with the charity, Engineering Without Borders, is encouraging more schoolchildren to aspire to engineering careers and to think sustainably.

Kids looking at books from above

14 December 2023

Engineers who can design sustainable solutions are critical for delivering the SDGs. A UCL student-led volunteering programme, in collaboration with the charity Engineering Without Borders (EWB), is providing undergraduates with an opportunity to develop leadership and project management skills while encouraging more young people to consider engineering as a career option.

Between September 2022 and March 2023, student, Rachel Wan (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering) led a team of 25 UCL students to deliver 19 hands-on workshops for primary and secondary schoolchildren across nine schools in London. Approximately 500 schoolchildren attended the workshops and further workshops are planned.

“Through our Engineers Without Borders outreach we are encouraging young people from different backgrounds to consider a career in engineering,” says Rachel. “Our ultimate aim is to inspire the next generation of engineers to become more globally responsible in making the world a better place.”

Our ultimate aim is to inspire the next generation of engineers to become more globally responsible in making the world a better place.”

EWB-UK is part of a global movement of engineers who believe engineering is vital for innovation and changes that will enable the planet and all its inhabitants to thrive. The charity supports projects such as the Engineering for People Design Challenge and the UN Global Compact Network UK report to encourage and support sustainable engineering approaches.

Rachel’s outreach programme included a workshop to introduce the concepts of design and how to achieve innovation within constraints of time and resources and others focussing on sustainable power generation and housing solutions for under-served communities. Children worked together to design and build a wind-turbine, a water filter and floating ‘house’, linking engineering design with some of the concepts of sustainable development.

The UCL-EWB collaboration has given Rachel and the team of UCL volunteers opportunities to develop their leadership skills and use their own passion for engineering to inspire young children to become engineers.

“The most rewarding part about the workshops is that the children get really engaged and take satisfaction from their creations,” explains Rachel. “They get involved in process of designing and have an opportunity to implement the principles they learn during the workshop, while gaining skills in collaboration and teamwork,”

UCL-EWB is one of the many initiatives supported by the Students’ Union UCL Volunteering Service, which connects students with community volunteering opportunities across London. It won the ‘Most Innovative Project’ award at the service’s annual Volunteering Awards 2022–23. The Project also received a grant from the UCL Grand Challenges Pathways to Achievement (SDGs) funding call.