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New Colombo Plan project proves fruitful for UniSQ students

students in green shirts smiling
Our students enjoyed visiting Fiji National University as part of the New Colombo Plan initiative.

A team of University of Southern Queensland engineering students have put their expertise to good use during a New Colombo Plan initiative in Fiji.

The top bunch, led by UniSQ Mechanical Engineering Senior Lecturer Dr Wijitha Senadeera, have just returned from a 2-week placement at the Fiji National University, where they worked alongside local students to design a solar banana dryer.

The New Colombo Plan is a government supported initiative which aims to build shared knowledge and relations between Australia undergraduates and those within the Indo-Pacific region.

After arriving in the country, the students undertook training in mechanical component design at the Fiji National University, learning about the innovative development methods and trends used in the Pacific region. For their final project they were tasked with designing a system which would be of local benefit.

Dr Senadeera helped to guide the students with this task.

“Bananas are popular in Fiji, however they have a short shelf life and many are wasted each year,” Dr Senadeera said.

“The main aim of the students’ final project was to create something that could prevent this waste.

“They decided to design a solar banana dryer, and then used software and calculations to build a functioning system, which was based off the solar positioning in Suva, Fiji.”

The finished product can dry 20kgs of bananas in around 6 hours, with the model able to be scaled.

Dr Senadeera said the students returned from the trip with a newfound appreciation for renewable designs.

“This project helped students think about the importance of sustainability in engineering and taught them how to harness and optimise the natural resources which are abundant in the region – in this case the sun,” he said.

“Another big aspect of this project was the connections.

“As is the aim of the New Colombo Plan, students learn about the technical and cultural aspects of our neighbouring countries, which they will carry forwards when they become our business leaders of tomorrow.”

Learn more information about engineering at the University of Southern Queensland.