Despite a blistering, raging snow storm, about twenty brave souls ventured outside to attend the EWB Toronto Water Systems Shop Day. This Shop Day aimed to emphasize the growing importance of water, and highlighted issues related to water access, water security and water quality.
After providing our attendees with some piping hot coffee and pizza, the Water for the World (W4TW) team kicked things off with an interactive, informative and ‘adult-ified’ version of their classic Water for the World Workshop.
Throughout the workshop, the W4TW team really got us thinking about how much we take water for granted. In Toronto, we have clean, free and highly accessible water almost everywhere we go without ever having to give it a second thought. However, many developing countries do not have this same luxury. Additionally, the amount of accessible freshwater in the world is a mere fraction of what you might think it is: Only 1% of the world’s water supply is fresh and easily accessible!
During our first interactive activity, we were asked to contemplate what ‘water access’ means to us. We then looked at a variety of factors that were related to water access, such as poverty, conflict, health, and education, and were asked to determine how these different factors were interconnected. For example, inability to access clean water can lead to poor health, but conversely poor health can lead to inability to access water (especially if a community’s only well is located several kilometres away). In our second interactive activity, we were asked to transport water across a room using a mere spoon. This helped to demonstrate the necessity of water transporting infrastructure within a community.
Our final interactive activity — the pièce de résistance — was the ‘adult-ified’ version of the W4TW’s water filter building activity. Participants were divided into different teams and countries with some teams representing developed countries like Canada and the United States, and others representing developing countries such as Cambodia and Malawi. Each team was asked to build a water filter and distribution network, but were allocated different resources and instructions based on their country’s GDP and literacy rates. This put the developing countries at a severe disadvantage. Although countries were able to barter with one another and trade resources, ultimately developed countries had the means to build a functional system with relative ease while developing countries were forced to prioritize how their limited financial capital was to be spent.
This activity was not only incredibly fun and competitive, it really helped to hammer home the messages that had been discussed earlier in the Shop Day and got participants enthusiastic about technology and its role in human development.
After our W4TW workshop wrapped up, we heard from our second speaker of the day Ms. Erica Lee Garcia. Erica is an entrepreneur and professional engineer who realized her own startup called Engineer Your Life. After an extensive career in the automotive manufacturing, mining, non-profit project management and consulting sectors, Erica began to contemplate how she could build her activities, livelihood, and living situation around her aspirations — and Engineer Your Life was born! Erica used her engineering skills to build a life and career that she is passionate about, and today she helps other young engineers to do the same.
In honour of National Engineer Month, which is coming up in March, Erica began her presentation with a new perspective on engineering and sparked within us a new way of thinking about the role and potential impact of engineering and technology for global society. This was followed by a fun activity in which Erica challenged us to think about our passions, skills and ideal career paths. Through a series of prompts, ranging from ‘what am I really good at’ and ‘what do I want to leave behind at the end of my life’, to ‘what next step will I commit to doing’, Erica helped us to see that it is possible to find a balance between what we have-to-do and what we want-to-do. She also helped us to develop a roadmap to achieve our professional and personal goals in the future.
Overall, this was a super informative, fun and engaging Shop Day. Congratulations to the Member Learning team for putting together yet another fantastic event. To all of our guests; thank you so much for coming out, we appreciate your support so much. To all of our presenters; you were fantastic, we could not have done it without you. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get constant updates on what the Chapter is up to and information about future Shop Days! We hope to see you there.
If you are interested in volunteering with the Water for the World workshops that will be taking place across Toronto during the month of March, check out the team’s website here. If you would like to find out more about Erica’s startup Engineer Your Life, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.