Aspiring engineers learn how civil engineering can help achieve the UN SDGs

40 students attended the joint ICE Essex and Anglia Ruskin University careers session, where they heard from current civil engineers and learned about real-life challenges they work on.

Norman Chan, senior engineer at Essex Highways, explained how he became an engineer after studying an arts degree. Image credit: ARU Norman Chan
Norman Chan, senior engineer at Essex Highways, explained how he became an engineer after studying an arts degree. Image credit: ARU Norman Chan

Students in the east of England have been given an insight into some of the practical civil engineering solutions being used to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

ICE Essex and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) hosted an event that focused on how the design and operation of infrastructure could be adjusted to achieve the following goals:

  • SDG #9: industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • SDG #11: sustainable cities and communities
  • SDG #13: climate action

Forty students from South Essex College and Chelmsford College attended the practical demonstration. They heard from current civil engineers at different stages of their careers who are working on challenges such as flooding and roads management.

Implementing sustainable and energy-efficient materials in construction

Students were shown how sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) worked, as an example of how civil engineers are aligning their work with the SDGs.

SuDS are implemented in urban areas to make them more resilient to climate-induced challenges such as flooding and heat islands (metropolitan zones that experience higher temperatures than their surroundings).

The demonstration at ARU’s civil engineering lab gave students hands-on experience of three areas of civil engineering: structural materials, geotechnics and hydraulics.

The real-life applications of these experiments were discussed with the students, including how civil engineers use the principles taught to design structures such as reservoirs and flood walls.

Routes into civil engineering

ICE Essex member and senior engineer at Essex Highways, Norman Chan, shared his path from an arts graduate to civil engineer.

“I wanted to give an example of another route into civil engineering, to pass my experience of what it is like to be a practicing engineer and why I love the industry,” he said.

Chan completed a foundation degree in science at ARU and then joined Essex County Council as a technician in the structures team.

Since then, he’s worked on projects such as the Oasis Bridge refurbishment works and the Hoppit Bridge re-deck scheme.

Matthew Callcut, graduate civil engineer at Atkins, also shared why and how he entered the profession.

“I got involved [with the event] as I think it is important to inspire the younger generation to consider careers in STEM, and more specifically, civil engineering.

“A lot of people aren't aware of quite how much they depend on us to go about their daily lives!” he said.

Integrating sustainability in education and qualifications

The ICE and ARU announced they are committed to applying the UN SDGs in civil engineering education and qualifications.

The goals are incorporated within the attributes for professional membership assessments for the ICE while the civil engineering team at ARU has embedded sustainability in its courses’ curriculum, particularly for project-based modules.

The civil engineering demonstration was supported by Dr Maryam Imani, associate professor of civil engineering and school liaison officer of ICE Essex Committee, Dr Reuben Brambleby, senior lecturer of civil engineering, Dr Binh Le, senior lecturer of civil engineering, Katie Price, schools and colleges development officer, and student ambassador Shylina Velasco.

Those who live and work in the east of England and would like to get involved with ICE activities should contact [email protected].

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