It was Term 2 holidays, and I had signed up for a weeklong trip with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) UNSW to Central West NSW. We were headed on a road trip to deliver engineering workshops for children in remote communities who don’t have much interaction with STEM at school.

I didn’t really know anybody else on the trip, so I was essentially hitching a ride with strangers to a place I’ve never seen 467 kilometres away, and yet I didn’t feel scared at all. I knew the people I was travelling with were also there because they cared about EWB’s mission and making a positive impact. So, before I even met my fellow passionate volunteers, I felt understood, supported and part of a team. This feeling has never left me.

At every school we went to, I found myself moved by the erudition, ingenuity, interest, and respect of the kids participating in the workshops. Seeing their designs in action felt like such a gift. About six years ago, it was one of these same workshops that set me on the path of engineering, so it felt incredible to finally deliver one myself. Beyond the inspiration the children received, seeing the fun they had with their teams and designs made the 12 hours of driving worthwhile many times over.

My favourite part of the trip was the workshop at Wyalong Public School. The school staff were so welcoming and gave us paper bags for our lunch orders. We talked about a need for floating houses in Cambodia to accommodate the Tonlé Sap Lake level’s seasonal fluctuations. As soon as we said “Today you’re putting on your [metaphorical] engineering hardhats and making these floating houses yourselves” they immediately jumped to form groups and started throwing out ideas. Seeing and feeling the excitement and creativity in that room remains my trip highlight.

I’ll forever remember the long drive, the incredible landscape, the elation of the teams who had the most successful design, the kids’ gratitude, the friendly and fascinating locals, the spontaneous Vinnie’s trips, the cooking of rice in motel microwaves, the overly intense late-night games of mafia, the greetings, and the goodbyes. Sharing these adventures with such passionate people has been quite remarkable.