“We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”-Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)
The speaker of the day, a light-skinned, shaggy haired student aptly nicknamed Dexter, began with that quote. He was there in front of us to talk to us about that very thing: learning to think in a new way. The forum was by Fablab Outreach, a monthly student run programme under the University of Nairobi whose aim is to promote knowledge sharing among the youth, enable critical thinking, merge knowledge from various disciplines to form a common replicable open source sharing model and Oh, promote fun as well.
In front of him were a crowd of students from various courses at the university,. He was a student of electrical engineering. In the crowd were several of his classmates, quite a few students from the other engineering courses, and one or two others from other departments who felt most welcome. We were all gathered within the bowels of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, early on a Saturday morning when we really should all have been sleeping in. Why were we there?
Learning about large scale design thinking and world class design.
As dexter put it, at the heart of great engineering is design, and in order for the attendees to have a baseline of judging a good design, a simple heuristic was given. Such a ”good” design should be:
- cost effective
Dexter’s PowerPoint presentation showed us several feats of engineering from across the world that satisfied those criteria. I’ve listed some of the ones I found truly inspiring below. Every single one was not only a creative solution to a problem. It made people’s lives better in some real tangible way.
A wise man (but then again, he might have been very foolish) once said all learning starts off as confusion. I think we can all agree that Africa has lived through decades of what can only be described as confusion: unmaintained infrastructure, institutional breakdown, embezzlement of funds and a general focus on fancy buildings rather than what is truly beneficial for the common man. Let that period of confusion end with us.
I’d like to leave you with the thing that stuck out most for me. This is the Lujiazui Circular Pedestrian Bridge.
It’s basically a roundabout for people. Cost-effective, artistic and very functional. Civil engineers in the house, can I get an amen?
See you all at the next session at the end of March. Specific dates shall be posted on their facebook and twitter accounts.
Some of my favourites…
There are eighteen of them, and all can be raised to let ships pass.
…because beauty is also a human need.
“Need a new foundation? Building’s already standing? No problem.”