A team of first year Civil and Environmental Engineering students from UNSW is about to gain first-hand experience helping developing communities in India after winning the inaugural national 2007 Engineers Without Borders Challenge.

The UNSW team of Stacey Atkinson, Antonia Shuttleworth, Nina Hames, Timothy Gotts, Liyao Zhou and Daniel Cho - known as "The Planeteers" - won the prestigious competition for their innovative design of a water, wastewater and sanitation system for an orphanage in Tamil Nadu, India.

A total of 3,500 students from 20 universities in Australia and New Zealand competed in the challenge, held in Melbourne, with each submitting a sustainable development project for a developing setting.

Project coordinator for UNSW Bec Barnes said the EWB Challenge represented an important learning opportunity for the students.

"The EWB Challenge is a timely opportunity for UNSW", she said.

"It is time for us to be educating our engineering students on using their skills where the need is greatest."

Over the four weeks of their visit to India for the EWB Development, Education and Leadership Program, the Planeteers will travel with local program partners to visit developing and disadvantaged communities.

The program focuses on building an understanding of the role of technology and engineering practice in community development.