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Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB) demonstrated to thousands of revellers the vital role that engineering plays in society as they helped to light up Sydney Harbour Bridge during the city’s new year celebrations.

The non-profit organisation was the City of Sydney’s chosen charity for the festivities, and is also celebrating 10 years of providing people with their basic needs via engineering and technology, including access to shelter, renewable energy, information and communications technology (ICT), water management and disability access.

Lizzie Brown, Engineers Without Borders Australia CEO, said engineering is fundamental to improving the quality of life of communities most in need, and asked for support on New Year’s Eve in the form of donations.

EWB set up four pop-up sites around Sydney in order to foster conversation about the work undertaken for Australia’s closest neighbours as well as in the country itself. The sites showcased a variety of engineering accomplishments, demonstrating crucial technology that is saving lives and providing inspiration and education.

A wind turbine made up of 3,500 Lego pieces powered a “space rocket” in which children could place a note with their hopes and dreams. The rocket launched in tandem with the family fireworks.

Giant toilets provided by WaterAid highlighted the importance of access to water, sanitation and health in building a life free from poverty and disease.

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EWB volunteers also built an impressive display of solar cookers. Solar cookers heat, cook or pasteurize food or drink using the direct rays of the sun with a solar energy of approximately 1000 watts per square metre. It is a cheap and low carbon footprint alternative to conventional cooking – particularly given that a standard gas oven can emit up to 0.18 tonnes of CO2/year.

A bike projector using pedal power showcased various media exhibits and a rope pump display demonstrated an innovative and cost-effective technique for extracting water. Loose hanging rope was lowered down into a well and drawn up through a long pipe with the bottom immersed in water. Round discs or knots matching the diameter of the pipe were attached to the rope, which then pulled the water to the surface.

The displays were complemented by EWB’s High School Outreach Learning modules, which were designed to show children that there is more to engineering than they think.

EWB is active in seven countries, including Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam and East Timor, and has a network of more than 15,000 supporters, 1,500 members, 18 corporate partners and supporters and 28 University partners.

With 1.6 million people watching the pyrotechnics spectacular around the Sydney Harbour Foreshore, it was an exciting opportunity to celebrate the role of engineering and technology in creating a better world.

 
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