04 March 2024

Caption: Jessica Mandlate, Candidate Engineer, AECOM

World Engineering Day on 4 March is a significant occasion to recognise the pivotal role of engineering in shaping our world. This is Part 2 of a three-part series.

… continued from Part 1.

Jessica Mandlate, Candidate Engineer

World Engineering Day commemorates the importance of engineering in accomplishing the UN SDGs, says Mandlate. It marks how far engineering has come as a profession and how engineers are also held accountable for the role they play in ensuring that sustainable development practices are incorporated as part of the solution to address various challenges.

“The day fosters conversation among engineers, scientists, governments, policymakers and society at large to promote information sharing to address pressing global concerns, while keeping sustainable development at heart. It also serves as a day to inspire young people to choose engineering professions as a way of making a difference,” comments Mandlate.

Last year, Mandlate graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with an honours degree in civil engineering and began her professional career as a candidate stormwater engineer at AECOM. She has been involved with projects to calculate runoff from catchments and designing structures.

These include culverts and erosion protection systems for effective management of high flows. Designing environmentally conscious solutions minimises the environmental impact, striking a balance between stormwater management effectiveness and promoting sustainability within ecosystems.

In addition to flood risk assessments, Jessica develops maps to communicate potential flood risks, serving as powerful tools for stakeholders. These maps highlight flood-prone areas, aiding informed decision-making on land use, infrastructure and emergency preparedness. The clear identification of flood zones empowers communities and decisionmakers to implement targeted measures for mitigating impacts, enhancing resilience and fostering sustainable development practices.

“Engineering offers a multifaceted approach to mitigate the impact of climate change and futureproof infrastructure. Whether through developing resilient infrastructure to withstand extreme weather conditions or innovating electric cars that have the capacity to reduce the carbon footprint, the role that engineers play can extend to designing sustainable water systems in areas prone to drought,” says Jessica.

Latest advancements in sustainable engineering include the use of smart stormwater management systems. Real-time data analytics allows for water levels, rainfall events and stormwater infrastructure to be monitored in real time. AI has also assisted to improve the accuracy of simulations and enhance stormwater modelling to predict runoff patterns. It assists engineers to make more informed decisions concerning designing more efficient stormwater infrastructure.

Mandlate says there is a need to provide future generations of engineers with holistic engineering education that goes beyond theoretical skills. This could equip them more with design solutions to address local and global challenges.

“Most often we are told what to think and not how to think. Therefore an emphasis on aspects such as critical thinking, problem-solving and thinking outside-of-the-box could help one gain a deeper understanding of a complex challenge.”

Mentorship programmes should be encouraged to pair experienced engineers with students to facilitate knowledge transfer, providing guidance to tackle real-world challenges and offer insight to industry practices.

The third engineer is profiled in Part 3.

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