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Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Sustainable technologies students report for Aalto University from Mexico, Uganda and Greece

Three student groups from Aalto University recently carried out field trips to three different countries, in order to research uses for sustainable technologies to improve the quality of life, to collaborate with local communities on local practices, to find the means to improve local conditions.

Before each trip, the students made careful preparations and compiled project plans. At their destinations, they learned new cultures and new working practices. They also learned a lot about themselves.

Europe's refugee situations

The student group on the island of Lesbos, Greece, was tasked with finding solutions to the refugee crisis. The students provided concrete help by clearing the shore of life vests, the number of which totalled half a million on the island. In addition to littering the environment, the vests also created dangerous situations when people are getting off refugee boats.

At first, the group felt unable to help, because they were overwhelmed by the workload. They cleared up one place, and then found another one with just as much clearing up to do. However, students Oona Anttila, Faisal Al Barazi, Melanie Wolowiec and Eve Zorawska reported that soon they could contribute in substantial, tangibnle ways. Architect and Project Researcher Kristjana Adalgeirsdottir is the group’s mentor.

UniWASH students in Uganda

Aalto's group of sustainable global technologies in Uganda had been given the task of developing a concept in which human waste would be used as a fertiliser. Working with locals on UniWASH, a multi-stakeholder innovation project aiming to co-create sustainable water and sanitation (WASH) innovations in Uganda, they discovered how important it was for them to see how composting worked and what its advantages were. Concepts related to composting were developed in collaboration with Unicef, Biolan and local universities. The project is implemented in cooperation with Aalto University’s IDBM Master’s programme.

The UniWASH team in Gulu, Uganda

"We learned how important it is to interview the locals and that way gain knowledge and an understanding. There was not so much written information available in Uganda, so the interview method was useful for that reason, too," said Matias Heino, Pok Leung, Meri Sipilä and Katariina Yli-Heikkilä. Researcher Anne Hyvärinen, from Aalto University’s New Global research project, is the group’s mentor.

Local water issues at LAB Mexico

The students in the village in South Mexico worked with water-related questions. They taught local children about water and compiled a manual providing instructions for how to examine water. The village is a culturally rich Mayan village with a very modest way of life. Aalto LAB Mexico was started in 2012.

The student group learned from the villagers, and vice-versa. Members of the student group - Christine Everaas, Mikael Hyövälti, Ville Lindgren, Mareike Rohrdrommel, Roy Snellman, and Philipp Tost - learned a lot about how to use their education in conditions that are different from those they had been used to at home. Architect Anni Hapuoja and researcher Claudia Garduño are the group's mentors.