TACOMA, Washington — According to the U.N., 1.6 billion tons of food worth more than $1 trillion are lost or go to waste every year. It is estimated that 30% to 40% of food waste is due to spillage and poor storage. Additionally, World Vision states that 844 million people across the globe do not have access to clean water. Statistics like these encouraged the United Nations to create an agenda in 2015 called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be carried out by 2030. This is a holistic effort to leave no one behind no matter their resources, health systems, education or living conditions.
Companies Unite to Initiate Hunger and Poverty Solutions
Siemens Design Challenge is a contest where participants engineer concepts to help the United Nations reach its 2030 SDGs goals. Siemens is a company centered on digitalization and automation for processes and manufacturing industries. It partnered with Engineering For Change (E4C) that was founded by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Engineers without Borders USA and Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers to organize and find solutions to improve quality of life around the globe, especially in underserved communities. Here are a few of the SDG goals that the IFISDC is focusing on:
- No Poverty
- Zero Hunger
- Clean Water and Sanitation
- Affordable and Clean Energy
- Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Responsible Consumption and Production
- Partnerships to Achieve the Goal
Inspiring Healthy Competition Around the World
2020 was the debut year for the Siemens Design Challenge. The initiative had two main categories of focus to improve the quality of life worldwide. Zero Water is creating a design for postharvest preservation and Clean Water is designing a low-cost, energy-efficient and ascendable idea for desalinating water. More than 23,000 participated in teams that sent in 220 designs from 34 countries.
“I think about that kind of connectedness in the midst of a global pandemic, and I’m inspired,” says Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens, during the award ceremony. The contestants produced designs like solar-powered communal refrigeration, solar cassava drying systems, electrochemical desalination systems, humidification-
Teams Championing Against Poverty through Innovative Ideas
During the contest, there were many ingenious ideas to improve quality of life but there could only be one winner in each of the two categories. The winners were reported in September 2020 and won $10,000, who will receive guidance and support on their product development needs, network with experts at Siemens and E4C and participate in the Impact Engineered Tech Gallery. This will help them expand as professionals and aid in getting their start-ups off the ground.
The Zero Hunger winning team was EcoLife Foods for designing the EcoLife Cold Room with assistance from Ugandan farmers. The Uganda and U.S. team members, Kyle Gaiser, Hadijah Nantambi and Ian Williams developed cold room storage to help farmers retain more of their crops. The room is built with locally sourced and recycled products. By thinking of the design holistically they are helping the community’s economy and sustainability. The EcoLife Foods team says, “This challenge gave us the opportunity to pursue research goals and accomplish our vision of providing every Ugandan—whether in a far-off village or a densely packed informal settlement—with fresh healthy food.”
The Clean Water winners were the Apü üya Wüin team, consisting of John Aguilar, Mónica Gutiérrez, Manuel Mejía, Sebastian Rodriguez and Aliex Trujillo of Colombia, in collaboration with members of the Parenskat indigenous community in the Guajira region of Colombia. The team’s objective was to establish quicker access to safe drinking water as it usually takes indigenous community members hours of walking to access clean water. As such, the team created the Guardian of Water, a compact, ready-to-assemble solar-powered water desalination device that can produce one liter of drinking water a day by treating brackish water. This mechanism is so simple anyone can assemble and maintain it without special tools or training.
Ending Global Poverty
Engineering contests, such as the Siemens Design Challenge, demonstrates why partnerships on every level are vital to ending global poverty. Large corporations collaborated to create this competition. Then, people from around the world formed teams and worked directly with those affected, creating local collaborations, by food and water disparities. While all the contestants did not officially win, they are all champions working to gain insights, perspectives and engineer innovative ideas that will improve the quality of life for millions of people living in poverty.