Inclusive Chilean project wins 2018 Diversity Award for Engineering Education

15 November 2018

The SaviaLab diversity initiative from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile has been selected as the winner of the 2018 Airbus GEDC Diversity Award for innovative use of technology to increase diversity in engineering education, organized in partnership with UNESCO.

The SaviaLab initiative seeks to bridge the gap of opportunity by offering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach education to indigenous minorities and young people in rural areas across Chile. University students travel around Chile, training teachers and introducing over 3,300 students from 7 regions to potential STEM career paths. ‘‘Our pre-engineering early innovation programme has looked to empower students and teachers from rural communities since 2014,’’ explains Constanza Miranda, Assistant Professor of Engineering. ‘‘Throughout this process, our own students that represent minorities themselves, have re-signified their own engineering careers by translating their tech-knowledge to others across communities. This nomination gives us enough recognition in our country to continue the pursuit of equality and empowerment in STEM through in-the-field teaching.’’

Increasing diversity amongst the global population of engineers is a well-documented challenge that Airbus, the GEDC and UNESCO are committed to addressing. As in the past, this year’s finalist projects were selected for their potential to be scaled up or replicated elsewhere. Since 2014, the initiative has introduced over 3,300 students from 7 regions to potential STEM career paths. This educational ‘pre-engineering’ programme empowers others with concrete technology and innovation tools. The impact goes beyond the rural minorities to the university’s own students that represent minorities themselves.

The three finalist projects - NASA Swarmathon from the University of New Mexico, USA, SaviaLab from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and iSTEAM Underwater Robot Competition from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology - presented their diversity initiative to a Jury* of industry experts and distinguished guests at the WEEF-GEDC 2018 conference – the largest engineering education gathering in the world – in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

Since Airbus launched the award in 2012, 198 entries representing 140 institutions from 37 countries have been submitted. From the 18 finalist projects recognised in the first six years of the award alone, over 125,000 students who otherwise may not have chosen engineering have been directly impacted. Airbus launched an e-book dedicated to the Diversity Award’s most successful initiatives, to share the valuable insights which will inspire others to take action, on the occasion of this year’s award.

Following patronage in 2017, UNESCO and Airbus signed a partnership agreement for the 2018 Airbus GEDC Diversity Award, in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 5: Gender Equality, SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

*2018 AIRBUS GEDC DIVERSITY AWARD JURY

  • Jean-Brice Dumont, Executive Vice President Engineering, Airbus Commercial Aircraft; Patron of the Airbus GEDC Diversity Award
  • Natacha DePaola, Carol and Ed Kaplan Armour Dean of Engineering; Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois, USA; GEDC Chair
  • Marie Paule Roudil, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office, New York
  • Professor Theo Andrew, Executive Dean, Durban University of Technology, South Africa
  • Amanda Simpson, Vice President for Research and Technology, Airbus Americas
  • Şirin Tekinay, Vice Rector for Research and Development at Sabanci University, Turkey