Otago Polytechnic

Dunedin brothers Cameron and Conrad Sinclair are set to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into a range of infrastructure projects on a remote Vanuatu island.

This weekend the pair will join 14 other students and staff from Otago Polytechnic’s School of Engineering and fly to Paama, where they will work on a variety of WASH (water, sanitation and health) projects.

Paama, one of the smaller of the 83 islands that comprise the nation of Vanuatu, is a 40-minute flight north of the capital, Port Vila.

The Otago Polytechnic contingent will spend 10 days on Paama, integrating their classroom-based projects and academic theory with important practical, real-world experience.

Specifically aimed at students who have completed Civil Engineering programmes in Water and Waste Systems and Water and Waste Management, the projects include water disinfection, desalination, gravity-based water systems, sanitation, solar pumps and solar cooking.

The project comes on the back of work done by Dunedin’s Highgate Presbyterian Church, which has helped improve infrastructure on the island.

“We are really excited,” Conrad (19) says.

“It’s going to be awesome to implement some of the things we have learnt while studying Civil Engineering.”

Cameron (21) agrees: “A big part of our approach is being able to problem-solve. This includes designing equipment that is relatively simple to maintain or repair. There’s no point taking over high-tech stuff.”

In the second year of a New Zealand Diploma of Engineering (Civil Engineering), both brothers are taking extra papers that will enable them to progress to a Bachelor of Engineering, should they choose to continue their tertiary studies.

“I like to visualise and draw solutions to problems,” Cameron says. “I really like the practical aspects of engineering.”

Having heard “great things” about the Engineering programmes at Otago Polytechnic, the Dunedin-raised brothers chose to remain in the city to study after leaving Kavanagh College.

Conrad: “We live at home, too, so we still get nice meals.”

Although they’re not sure exactly what’s on the menu for their Paama experience, the pair are relishing the chance to get involved with the island community. This includes sharing their football (soccer) skills with the local children.

“We’ve been asked to come along to the school on Paama and share our knowledge of Engineering, Conrad says.

“We are both into our football so, even though we have to pack lightly, we’ll be taking a bag of balls with us as we’ve been nominated to lead a team when we are there.”

Although more than a third of their costs have been covered by Otago Polytechnic, the group of 16 have been involved in a range of fund-raising activities in recent months. This includes building sleep-outs, the first of which has been completed and is being auctioned this month.

The group has also been offering Otago Polytechnic staff and students the opportunity to purchase solar-powered lights that will be donated to households in Vanuatu.

Richard Nyhof, Head of the College of Engineering, Construction and Living Sciences, says the Vanuatu project is another example of Otago Polytechnic’s hands-on learning.

“Our approach to teaching equips learners with the confidence and ability to tackle real-world problems,” Richard says.

Read about our Engineering programmes

Published on 10 Sep 2018

Orderdate: 10 Sep 2018
Expiry: 31 Jan 2019