17-18 September, London: Two proposals that received contributions from University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) students won awards at the recent 2019 Global Grand Challenge Summit (GGCS). The projects were aimed at improving the gynecological health of women in developing countries and post-surgery recovery respectively.
Jointly hosted by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering, US National Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, GGCS aims to inspire the next generation of engineers, policymakers and the public to creatively address the pressing issues the planet currently faces, in particular the world population reaching 10 billion by the year 2050.
In the Collaboration Lab - in which UNNC students participated – students from three nations with diverse disciplines were required to propose innovative solutions within 24 hours.
Team “EmPads”, which included UNNC student Juncheng Shen, proved most popular among the audience as well as investors for its simplicity and potential impact in developing countries.
It innovatively proposed that by setting up factories in India to reprocess waste clothes into sanitary pads, it could provide ultra-affordable products as well as numerous employment opportunities for local women.
As the only business student in the team, Juncheng applied his UNNC-acquired knowledge to set up a financial model that calculated costs and researched market feasibility, both of which made the proposal stand out.
“As waste clothes are usually shipped back to factories in developing countries, enterprises pay no extra charges to send them to us,” he explained.
The team is now seeking to turn its scheme into a real-world project with the support of their mentor Jennifer Jia, a scholar of neuroscience from Cambridge University .
Fellow UNNC student, Zhefan He played a similar role in another winning team.
By combining technologies garnered from data analyses, remote monitoring and community nursing, the team aimed to facilitate greater home-based post-surgery recovery, thereby relieving stress on resources and improving efficiency.
He claimed that the biggest challenge was to achieve a breakthrough within the 24-hour time-limit. “Our mentor required us to set time limits for each session and it was the first time I felt the urgency of having to take action,” he recalled.
Qingqi Ma, Feng Jiang and Zheni Fei, students from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science and Engineering, also took part in the Collaboration Lab. “My take-home message is that multidisciplinary collaboration is an unavoidable trend regardless of one’s academic background,” said Zheni Fei, a student of Aerospace Engineering.
Dr Chiew-Foong Kwong, Assistant Professor in UNNC’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, mentored the five students for four months in preparation for the Summit and spoke highly of their performance.
“The Collaboration Lab was not only a competition but rather a multinational collaboration aimed at solving humanity’s problems and raising public awareness of challenges associated with the growing population,” added Dr Kwong.
UNNC is highly focused on cultivating student creativity and has been providing platforms to support entrepreneurial goals, such as the Ingenuity Lab, unveiled by Prince Andrew, Duke of York, last year. Along with the Department of Campus Life and Li Dak Sum Incubator, it provided support to this event.