Meg Cummins, who is currently studying honours for her Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wollongong, talks to create about her passion for humanitarian engineering and her work on projects in Rwanda and Dubai.
create: What is the value of this engineering degree to you?
MEG CUMMINS: My civil and environmental engineering degree has provided me with the skill set to create positive change.
I have learnt how to problem-solve, pitch and sell my ideas, and implement projects that directly influence the community and surrounding environment. It has allowed me to put my dreams of “saving the world” into tangible outcomes.
create: What would be your ideal job?
MC: My ideal job combines my love for water engineering and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I would love to be the project lead on a UN humanitarian engineering project to deliver clean water and sanitation to remote developing countries.
create: Who is one engineer you most admire?
MC: I am completely inspired by Dr Marlene Kanga. As the president of the WFEO — the global peak professional body — Marlene advocates for engineers to change the world through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Marlene is a powerhouse who supports and empowers women in engineering and is an advocate for engineers changing the world!
create: How can engineering benefit humankind?
MC: Engineering is the solution to the biggest problems faced throughout the world. In order to create climate action, we must engineer sustainable cities and net-zero energy households.
To reduce poverty, engineering can implement structures, lighting and water facilities, and allow children access to education. To create responsible consumption and production, engineers can develop systems to successfully minimise waste.
create: Favourite subject in your engineering course?
MC: My favourite subject was Humanitarian Engineering, as it taught me so much. It gave me the opportunity to create a solution to a real-life problem. It allowed me to tie my life experiences and knowledge from classes and see, firsthand, the impact I can have through my engineering career.
It also taught me management skills that I never would have learnt from a theory-based class.
create: What draws you to humanitarian engineering?
MC: I am drawn to humanitarian engineering as I have a drive to create a positive difference and solve some of the biggest issues facing our world. Humanitarian engineering encapsulates this entirely!
Often, in emergencies, the world rushes to provide initial aid; however, the rebuild and recovery is not as heavily supported. Humanitarian engineering works to support communities through education and infrastructure, and this is how I feel I can have the biggest impact.
create: What were the highlights of your Rwanda project?
MC: My team’s project in Rwanda had so many highlights. The best moments on our project always featured the local community. We engaged directly with the local school students who volunteered to help us with painting during our project. We utilised local labour, local material and had the opportunity to inspire students to pursue STEM.
create: What did you learn from the Desert Rose project?
MC: Through my Desert Rose experience, I had the chance to dream, design, build and showcase a world class, net-zero energy house.
I networked with industry professionals, developed relationships and gained sponsorships. I learnt that interdisciplinary collaboration is essential to create a project that incorporates all people and aspects of our society. I was immersed in every facet of the design and build of a real-life house.
I learnt how to use online modelling software and how to use design to increase the quality of life of an individual as they age. Most importantly, I now understand how to create a net-zero energy home in different climates — such as in the middle of a desert — and for different cultures.