Yiyi Cheng is a final year student studying a Bachelors in Mechatronics/Masters in Biomedical Engineering degree. Over the summer of 2018-2019 between her second and third year of uni, she went on a two-month trip to Cambodia as part of the Engineering World Health (EWH) Summer Institute program. The opportunity to explore another country and get hands on experience with a humanitarian engineering project was invaluable. Yiyi shares with the Girls in Engineering Club what this taste of humanitarian engineering has taught her.
This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I have so many incredible memories that I will never forget. I signed up to this program, not knowing much about Cambodia and I felt simultaneously terrified and thrilled to live in a foreign country for two entire months! But soon enough I was there, and I came to realise how enriching and eye-opening this experience could be.
During the first month we had training for the trip. It involved taking Cambodian classes every day, practising our troubleshooting skills and learning how to apply concepts from electronics and mechanics classes at uni to fixing broken medical equipment. This was such a great way to learn about humanitarian engineering and I also formed a close group of friends. After classes each day, I would explore the city of Phnom Penh with my new friends or spend the evening with my homestay family to learn about each other's cultures.
Entering the second month, we paired off to visit different hospitals around the country to help with technical repairs, maintenance and refurbishing as much equipment as we could. EWH also tasked us with implementing a small project. Our project was a demonstration for paediatric staff to teach them how to use an infant incubator. We also created and translated an English-Khmer user manual for them. It was very fulfilling to connect with hospital staff and see our mini feats make an impact on the hospital, whether it be our incubator project or a small repair on a fan or surgical lamp. I also had the most amazing time with my homestay family, with highlights including a big family feast on the beach and attending a Cambodian wedding!
My choice to experience something out of my comfort zone become something much more and made me realise the impact of humanitarian engineering in providing aid for disadvantaged communities. It was such a rewarding and culturally immersive experience, one applicable for any engineering discipline and I highly recommend this sort of experience to all students!