Humanitarian engineering

Humanitarian engineering sits across all engineering disciplines with a focus on social impact and improving quality of life in society.

Humanitarian engineers specifically work with vulnerable and marginalised communities and combine specialist social and technical thinking with core engineering practice. This could be applied in disaster response, long-term development or marginalised inclusion.

Our engineering students have the opportunity to develop their skills in humanitarian engineering via a range of projects and experiences.

Capstone projects solving real-world problems

RMIT academic Jega Jegatheesan inspects a borehole with a local community member.  RMIT academic Jega Jegatheesan inspects a borehole with a local community member.

Final year undergraduate engineering students can choose to solve a pressing real-world humanitarian problem via their capstone project. This can include complementary field work.

For example, RMIT sustainable systems engineering students, studying food security and nutrition, have completed field visits to rural farming communities in Timor-Leste to investigate harvesting and storage techniques.

Civil engineers have looked at earthquake resistant construction techniques and materials in Nepal before replicating the conditions in the lab at RMIT. 

Environmental engineers have worked with communities in remote Fiji to monitor and treat drinking water (see image)

Humanitarian engineering capstone projects are a great way to work with industry partners on real-world challenges and can be a point of difference when showcasing project work to prospective employers.

Humanitarian Experiential Learning Project

Engineering students can select the elective course Humanitarian Experiential Learning Project (course code: OENG1164) which combines workshops on campus with at least two weeks immersed in a less-developed country such as India, Nepal, Timor-Leste or Cambodia.

“I have come back to a greater motivation for my degree, to learn as much as I can and get onto what I really want to be doing; finding my place in helping people all over the world,” said one of the students involved.

For Australian citizens and permanent residents, funding is often available through scholarships to cover most of the costs of travel and participation.

On the remote Fijian island of Naviti, RMIT staff (A/Prof. Matt Currell) and students (Liv and Alex) train community elder (Tai Samsi) how to sample drinking water from the blue communal rainwater tank behind (Source: Nick Brown) On the remote Fijian island of Naviti, Associate Prof Matt Currell and students show community elder Tai Samsi how to sample drinking water from the blue communal rainwater tank behind (Source: Nick Brown)

Engineers Without Borders Challenge

Students and judges at the Engineers Without Borders Challenge RMIT students presenting their EWB Challenge design to judges (Image supplied by Engineers Australia / Justin Cooper Photography)

All first-year engineering students at RMIT University get to solve humanitarian challenges in this core course, OENG1166 Introduction to Professional Engineering Practice.

Via this course, students partake in the Engineers Without Borders Challenge, solving a real-world problem around the world with community partners.

Students spend 12 weeks designing their ideas, which are pitched to industry judges and members of the community with the intention to implement them.

“For engineering students, this course is most likely their first opportunity to learn about engineering," says Dr Nick Brown, Course Coordinator. 

"From day one they are solving real-world problems, for a real industry client with the best designs potentially moving through to a build phase. What a great start to your engineering career!”

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.