Outstanding Leaders - Canterbury Students

Caroline and Chris of our Canterbury Students Chapter have been working above and beyond on the local In Schools programme, visiting a record number of high school students to teach our Clean Water for Life initiative to the next generation.


Getting out into the community, educating a new generation, and inspiring high school students to take part in the Clean Water for Life initiative: Caroline and Chris, two of EWB’s volunteer student engineers from the University of Canterbury, have been volunteering at high school campuses across Christchurch with the resolve to teach students the importance of clean water and that one is never too young to get involved in humanitarian engineering.

We caught up with these aspiring engineers to see how the initiative they've undertaken has been going and the impact that it has made on the Canterbury community.


What has been happening in the Canterbury In-Schools group so far this year?


We have spent a lot of time visiting different schools; so far we’ve visited Rangi Ruru, Middleton Grange, and Cashmere High Schools, with Mairehau lined up for next term. So, we have almost reached our target of five schools for the year already!

Caroline (Caz):

We have also been exploring another potentially long-term project with Linwood College and Jacobs, an international engineering consultancy. It’s a joint venture to promote STEM in schools. Watch this space, more to be confirmed soon!


What is the Clean Water for Life initiative?


The module is run in two parts consisting of one theory session and one practical session. The theory session introduces students to engineering and how engineers can have such a positive impact in the world. We then use the second session to cement the lesson through practical activities. We split the class into ‘country teams’ and ask the teams to construct a water filter with materials that match the environment of their respective country. The students learn a lot about the differences between countries, their available resources, and corresponding living conditions.


Tell us a bit about your team.


We have a pool of 20 core volunteers, along with another 10 volunteers who provide behind the scenes support. The team is mainly made up of first year students that we recruited through promoting the program in the university halls. The In-Schools programme has been a really fun way for these first years to get into the club scene early on in uni.


Also, first year students really relate to the programme since they were so recently at high school themselves.


Tell us about some of the challenges you have been facing?


It is often a struggle to engage with some of the school students. All students are different obviously and sometimes it is hard to get the discussion up and going with some students. However, we’ve picked up a cool tool that Cashmere College implements; we pass around personal whiteboards and the students make notes as they please so that when we ask questions they have some answers prepared.


What are some highlights in terms of the relationships you have formed through your participation in the programme?


We have had some awesome classes where we have been able to relate with the students, for instance with those who struggle with school work and think they don’t have what it takes to study beyond school. We have been able to explain to them that we haven’t necessarily gone straight from school to study. That some us are ‘older’ students who have worked (as a builder) and traveled before returning to study. We have also received many glowing reviews from teachers and it says a lot about our volunteers, their delivery is awesome!

You also meet a lot of people through EWB. Potential life-long friends, people across the years and engineering disciplines. It makes the university seem like a much smaller and friendlier place.


Why did you decide to volunteer for the EWBNZ In-Schools group?


I heard about the programme through friends and loved the sound of the In-Schools programme, I really liked the concept of the In-Schools programme and am an advocate for all the messages it sends.


I was keen to be a part of EWB, was so keen I ticked all the boxes when signing up and ended up with the In-School’s coordinator role.


What has been the most rewarding aspect of your volunteering with EWBNZ?


Seeing new friendships being made, especially with younger volunteers. EWB is a great way for like-minded people to meet and grow together.

Also, after investing so much personal time organising the program, to watch it become more successful than it has been in previous years has been so satisfying. I am excited about the future of the program, it’s scalable and there is so much potential. If I had unlimited time, there is so much I could do with it!!  


Anything else in the pipeline?


One thing we’ve been looking into recently is working with the Women in Engineering group at UC. I think that there is a huge advantage in having at least one woman presenter, as without that I think it’s much harder to engage with the female high school students. Engineering is obviously still a more stereotypically ‘male’ industry so we need to work harder to engage the female high school students.

Also, we’ve been keeping a tally of the visits that out volunteers are carrying out. For example, I’ve done 12 already and Caz has done 15. We hope to be able to throw a celebration and thank you event for our volunteers soon…