Hayley Maxwell was one of 21 young engineers to win an ICE Quest Travel Award last year, receiving a £1,500 grant to travel to Africa to oversee the construction of a sustainable rural classroom she and three colleagues at designed.
She has recently returned from her visit, but is already looking forward to returning. Here is her account of the visit.
“I travelled to Uganda to assist with the construction of a new academy building in Nakaseeta, a rural village outside Mukono. A team of us at Gifford were successful in last year’s Open Architecture Challenge to design the classroom of the future, and receiving the Quest travel award from ICE meant I was able to take up the opportunity.
“We partnered with Building Tomorrow to develop solutions for remote communities in Uganda, with little or no existing access to educational facilities.
“The charity intends to use our design as a blueprint for the next two years. I spent six weeks working with the team in Uganda to develop the design into something that could be practically built.
” The intention was to oversee construction of the first classroom. Based on traditional Ugandan architecture, our design includes a number of new innovative features to provide a comfortable, flexible learning environment.”
” The intention was to oversee construction of the first classroom. Based on traditional Ugandan architecture, our design includes a number of new innovative features to provide a comfortable, flexible learning environment.
From experience, there is no better substitute than someone explaining engineering thinking in person.
“Unfortunately progress on site was slow, with everyone working to ‘Africa time’ and torrential rains causing power outs and impassable roads. I met the future students at Nakaseeta. where they currently cannot afford to go to school.
“I assisted community mobilisation as well as helping clear the site with my own hands.
“A lot of time was spent visiting existing schools and understanding the construction style in Uganda.
“We often found ourselves explaining the basics of structural engineering to encourage improvements and most importantly, safety!
“By the time I left, the site had been cleared ready for grading and the academy blueprints submitted to Mukono District Council for planning permission.
“Since arriving back in the UK, we hold weekly conference calls with the team, to keep up to date with progress.
“The site has recently been levelled and production of the interlocking soil stabilised bricks has begun.
“I plan to travel back to Uganda for the opening ceremony of the academy next February.”
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