Change in the air with student challenges

Students from the University of Edinburgh have tackled pressing industry and social challenges in one of the first projects delivered by the City Region Deal’s Data-Driven Innovation Programme.

Designing out waste from the construction process, preventing violence against children, and helping fintech align itself to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals were challenges set by external partners in the Students as Change Agents (SAChA) project.

During the SAChA pilot week in February 2019, 30 students tackled challenges by the Robertson Group in collaboration with the Building Research Establishment, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, and Sustainably, a fintech social enterprise .

This exciting collaboration between the university, students and external partners, aims to develop students for the future, harnessing their passion and skills to tackle some of society’s most complex problems. Following the theme of data-driven innovation, partners provided students access to new datasets to inform their thinking.

Ruth Donnelly, Assistant Director, University of Edinburgh Careers Service, said: “We’re delighted that so many of our talented and passionate students have been able to benefit from working with our external partners to become ‘change agents’. Together they have tackled complex challenges impacting on society, the environment and the economy, using data and working together across boundaries to drive innovation. This is an important step on our journey to become a challenge-led university, co-creating change with students, staff and partners.”

The students worked across traditionally separate academic areas, learning from each other, the host organisations, and university staff to develop innovative data-driven solutions to challenging problems.

Maria Gelen, a third year student at the University’s College of Humanities and Social Science, was in one of the teams to work on the challenge set by the Robertson Group. Maria said: “The basic idea behind the challenge was to propose methods for designing out waste from the construction process. This involved different academic disciplines coming together to work towards the same goal. It was a great opportunity to put theory into practice with a real-world challenge.”

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