AP students Try Their Hand as Engineers Without Borders at U of T Conference
By A.J. Dinglasan, Science Department
Senior PACE/AP science students ventured beyond the borders of St. Brother Andre CHS to learn more about how the engineering profession can impact our world. Grade 11 students Matthew Monaco and Kevin Setnyk participated in a two-day conference organized by the University of Toronto chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) held at the St. George Campus on May 27-28, 2017. Monaco and Setnyk were among about a hundred conference delegates who participated in workshops with guest speakers as well as design challenges aimed at engaging youth to use innovative ideas to affect social change.
Andrew Lau, an alumnus of the PACE/AP Science program at St. Brother Andre who just finished his sophomore year at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering serves as Vice President for Operations of the Engineers Without Borders chapter at the school. Having been through the PACE/AP program, Lau thought that current SBA students would benefit from being inspired to create a bigger impact on the world given the knowledge, skills and passion they now bring to their science education. “Development is a complex issue,” Lau says, “but with the right systemic approach, youth leaders, whether they plan to go in to engineering or not, have immense potential to improve the quality of life for others in the world.”
Monaco and Setnyk found out first-hand how much the engineering field can indeed affect the lives of many people in the developing world. While Monaco initially thought that the main focus of the conference was the engineering discipline itself, he was nonetheless inspired by how engineering can be the catalyst and a practical vehicle for social change. One speaker in particular, Andre Bertram, drove this point home for him. Bertram and a colleague invented a watch that tracks vital signs and can call for help in the event of an emergency. The health technology start-up that he and his partner created works with universities and hospitals in the hopes that the device can make its way to parts of the world that need it the most. “His was the most inspiring talk in my view, as he had achieved so much as a young age. Having created a business at age 19, he showed that anyone can be an entrepreneur if they so desired,” says Monaco.
The workshops that the students participated in as well as the various design challenges incorporated case studies that brought various global issues closer to home. “We were taught new methods of solving problems that involve identifying stakeholders and then coming up with conceptual solutions. We were able to come at problems from a different perspective, which was an efficient way and it really worked well,” says Setnyk. He added that the design challenge emphasized the importance of working as a team and learning to collaborate with other people to get things done. “There’s really no one-size-fits-all solution for the case study. It came down to how willing people are to explore possible solutions and see what could be done to create social change,” adds Monaco. Lau hopes that conferences like this would empower students at SBA to advocate for social change as well as follow their passions at the same time. He hopes that the school will be represented again at next year’s conference and that social change and youth empowerment remain a conscious presence in these students’ lives.