In May 2023, eight students from UNSW Humanitarian Engineering’s Drought Resistant Uganda (DRU) team were welcomed into a local secondary school in Northern Uganda to speak about their experiences studying engineering and encourage local girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The Drought Resistance Uganda Student-led Project began in 2019, building on humanitarian engineering partnerships under UNSW’s ‘Humanitarian Engineering Project’ course. DRU collaborates with local organisations including the Africa STEM Education Initiative (ASEI), Gulu University and the Love Mercy Foundation on various projects including agricultural irrigation systems and water filtration solutions. With project partner ASEI, a key focus of the recent visit was outreach on STEM in schools.

ASEI runs a variety of different programs and workshops at Kyebambe Secondary School, a boarding school in Fort Portal for girls aged 16 to 19 years old. They facilitated a valuable opportunity for DRU students to visit the school and speak with the girls. The group discussed the topic of careers in engineering through an informal panel discussion, introducing the girls to a wide variety of rewarding career paths they could explore. Afterwards they broke up into smaller groups to allow the girls to ask more specific questions.

DRU student Sarina Ulrich said that everything from gender roles to traditional beliefs and the differences and similarities to life in Uganda and Australia were discussed.

“It was an amazing exchange, and the energy of the girls was incredible,” said Sarina.

She was impressed not only by the level of engagement and interest shown by the girls, but also by the enthusiasm of the teacher. With Uganda’s primary school education completion rate sitting only at around 50%, there was a lot of interest in the UNSW students’ insights on what STEM education can offer.

“Their teacher was super inspiring and seemed to really take a personal approach to teaching each student,” said Sarina.

“He was extremely encouraging and empowering around women being able to follow any career path—even the more traditionally male-dominated fields. It was amazing to see and is something that will make a huge difference in these girls’ confidence and trust in their abilities to do anything.”

While in Uganda, the DRU students completed other activities focused on empowering local people through innovative engineering solutions. They delivered 3D printers and computing equipment to help form a Makers Space at ASEI, which was inspired by their trip to UNSW in 2017/18; undertook field water and technical testing of water filters and treatment systems in schools and health centres and visited Kyaka 2 Refugee Settlement to conduct a water supply study with support from The Office of the Prime Minister and Oxfam.

See water-related news stories here

DRU students visit Kyebambe Secondary School, Uganda DRU students visit Kyebambe Secondary School, Uganda