Towards integration of the Māori world view and engineering: A case study on student design projects for the Koukourārata community, Aotearoa/New Zealand
CONTEXT Among desired graduate engineer attributes is comprehension of the role of engineering in society and the economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts of engineering activity. The University of Canterbury, Aotearoa/New Zealand, aims for its graduates to be globally aware, engaged with the community and biculturally competent and confident. Here we present a case study on explicitly addressing the development of these attributes in a final-year undergraduate course. The key focus is the small coastal community Koukourārata, in Canterbury, for which students conducted a design project focussing on relevant water, sanitation and landscape management issues, guided by the Māori world view. PURPOSE We present a case study that describes an inaugural design project in collaboration with the Koukourārata community, to highlight opportunities for community engagement and meaningful societal impact through the learning process. APPROACH In previous years course design projects have been desktop studies on aspects of water, sanitation and energy systems in Pacific Island communities. With the 2017 inaugural design project in collaboration with the Koukourārata community in Aotearoa/New Zealand, students have been able to visit the area in question and meet with the community, and receive feedback on their designs. This approach aspires to respectful co-creation of sustainable and culturally relevant engineering solutions. RESULTS Student design projects addressed aspects of domestic and agricultural/horticultural water supply, flood and sedimentation mitigation, food production, with various degrees of holistic treatment of integrated water and energy systems. These designs incorporated aspects of the Māori world views and beliefs. Designs gifted to the community provided the Koukourārata community with a diverse set of ideas and plans with which to achieve their aspirations for future development, and future years will add to the design portfolio. The course has directly addressed desired graduate attributes pertinent to societal engagement and sustainability. CONCLUSIONS The opportunity for young engineers to engage meaningfully with indigenous peoples as part of their undergraduate programme, and the requirement for them to incorporate indigenous beliefs and world view into engineering designs to address significant water, sanitation, energy and land use issues, significantly enhances their educational experience. This approach starts to fulfil the need for students to understand the role of engineering in wider society and in developing communities in particular, in order to address complex issues of economic, social, cultural and environmental sustainability.