Africart provides transport solution


A half-scale prototype of the

A half-scale prototype of the "Africart"

The student designers of a cart that converts to a market stall for villages in Africa have won the Engineers Without Borders real world design challenge at Charles Darwin University.

The “Africart”, which is designed for people in refugee camps in Zambia, allows villagers to transport farm produce to market and also has the components to create a mobile shop.
The winning team, including Bachelor of Commerce student Melissa Durston, Bachelor of Electrical Engineering student Matthew Wright and Diploma of Engineering student Geoff Jowett, created the cart as part of the common unit Design and Innovation: Communicating Technology unit at CDU.

“We became very passionate about the project because it was a real problem and we wanted to help solve something that was a day-to-day struggle for these people,” Geoff said.

The Australia-wide competition is run through Engineers Without Borders and provides students with a design brief from a real community in need. This year’s challenge focused on the Mayukwayukwa refugee settlement in the Kaoma district of Zambia’s Western Province, which is home to more than 11,000 refugees, most of whom escaped the war in Angola.

Unit co-ordinator Susi Bertei said the aim of the project was for first year students of various disciplines to learn about sustainable design, innovation, academic and professional communication skills in the context of real world design challenges.

“The design brief provides students with details of the issues and needs of the community, such as transport, health, shelter, waste management and water supply,” Ms Bertei said.  “Then choosing from several design areas they present a design solution taking into account cultural and social factors, environmental issues, access to materials and cost.”

Team researcher Melissa Durston said the transport need was something they were inspired to address for the people of Mayukwayukwa because it would have many positive impacts.

“Creating a design that enabled villagers to become self-employed was a practical way to help them escape the cycle of poverty, which was important to our team,” Melissa said.

“We were keen for our design to be adaptable to the height and strength of the user as transporting produce from farm plots to market was undertaken by any age or gender with the strength to do so.”

Team designer Matthew Wright said that to fulfil this requirement the cart had to be modular, which enabled the design to be more than a means to transport produce.

“The Africart consists of four timber crates that when stacked take on the characteristics of a sack trolley; when unstacked they become a pop up shop with shelter,” Matthew said. “Because produce is seasonal, when not being used by one family it can be leased or shared with others in the community.”

The team will now compete in the reginal finals in December. The top four teams selected as part of the national final will have their designs implemented in the community in Zambia.

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