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Young engineers win GHD internships with sludge solution

A bright idea for creating safer and more user-friendly pit latrines in developing countries has earned two University of Sydney engineering students paid internships at GHD.

Vanathy Arudselvan and Yeeun Cho received the GHD Humanitarian Internship Prize for the ‘Sterculius’: a device to dislodge latrine sludge, while minimising human exposure, using cheap and widely available materials like rods and PVC pipes.

GHD Advisory Global Leader Richard Fechner said the winning idea aligned with GHD’s broader goals and that the engineering firm was excited to welcome the pair.

“While the world’s attention is focused on COVID-19, Vanathy and Yeeun’s solution reminds us that many people around the world still suffer serious yet easily preventable diseases linked to inadequate sanitation,” Fechner said.

“It’s really exciting to see university students develop cutting-edge solutions that could save lives globally, and this is aligned with GHD’s purpose of creating lasting community benefit.”

Arudselvan said she looks forward to contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through her work as an engineer.

“Engineers play an invaluable role in sustainable development, a key to addressing issues faced by the millions of people worldwide impacted by poverty, conflict and the effects of climate change,” she said.

“My ambition is to forge a career in international development that will allow me to do my part in working towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and beyond.”

Cho agreed, stating she hoped to apply her engineering expertise to humanitarian challenges in future.

“I endeavour to use my skills to make a positive impact on my society through innovative projects, and this is the beginning of my journey,” she said.

During their internships, Arudselvan and Cho will gain experience in their preferred area within GHD, including Indigenous Services, Water, International Development Assistance and GHD Advisory.

The GHD Humanitarian Internship Prize was presented at the Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon hosted by engineering thinktank the Warren Centre and held at Sydney University recently.

The virtual event brought together university students, working together in cross-discipline teams, to create technology-driven solutions for the most pressing humanitarian challenges facing the world today.

The winning entry, titled H2ArchipelagO, considered the challenge: how might we efficiently and effectively undertake asset maintenance and operation of water infrastructure for remote, dispersed and isolated populations?

The winning solution was the ‘Super Sand School Initiative’, a water filtration system designed to teach children in remote villages to purify drinking water.

Their solution uses layers of material, such as gravel, sand, charcoal and cloth to filter pathogens and solid bodies out of water.