April 16, 2024

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Addressing Environmental Challenges through Innovative Engineering Solutions

World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development is usually celebrated on March 4, following a proclamation from the UNESCO General Conference in November 2019. This international day is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the contributions of engineers around the world to creating a better and more sustainable world, which is critical to supporting the role of engineering in modern life, especially in finding solutions for planetary health. This year, the message “Engineering Solutions for a Sustainable World” will directly benefit the global agenda for planetary health challenges. There is a strong appreciation for engineering and the promotion of STI among science citizens. According to social media metadata, approximately 56 million people could participate, contribute and continuously educate themselves and adapt to new technologies and innovations. Engineering students will participate in solving global real-world problems centred on the theme “Engineering Solutions for a Sustainable World” in 2024. In previous years, about 70.2% of the audience was male and most of the 83.4% of the audience was under 35 years old. However, following several opportunities and programs for young leaders, women are contributing more and more, especially in the Young Engineers Platform and specific publications and research in academia. In the recent data from UNESCO, the proportion of women in the engineering professions is only 10-20%. The main reason for this is the widespread mindset of persistent gender stereotypes and the difficulties that other countries face in policy making or the lack of a suitable continuous educational environment.

Engineering solutions play a crucial role in addressing global environmental challenges in the context of planetary health and sustainable development in STI. Engineering innovations can enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure (such as energy grids, transportation systems, and water supply networks) to withstand extreme weather events caused by climate change. The climate-resilient infrastructure would be the most important priority for urban planning and problem-solving by engineers. Perhaps, by now, need to incorporate key elements of climate data and predictive models into planning and design criteria and analyze more strategically in the modern age to ensure that infrastructure remains functional in the face of disasters or hazards from flooding, storms or heat waves. Engineers and associated partners in the engineering division need to cooperate with ecologists and urban planners to implement nature-based solutions, especially to restore biodiversity, e.g. in wetlands, create green spaces and integrate natural habitats into urban areas. Another crucial element is the ultimate concern in designing and implementing urban regeneration as part of the decarbonised agenda. The commitment to become a net-zero society and the associated clean technologies require various technical measures in the areas of renewable energy, smart and environmentally friendly transportation, improving the design of green buildings and circular economy in services and amenities.

When it comes to talent and the skills of young people, especially the engineering world’s contribution to better innovative solutions, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) could be the game changer in higher education. Some universities offer specialized courses in sustainable engineering and other conventional engineering and applied science courses that focus on integrating social, environmental and economic concerns into engineering theory. However, UTM continuously offers engineering programs designed to meet the current demand for green jobs, improve employability in the sectors and develop several soft skills in science. UTM has 12 faculties (including the new Faculty of AI), 15 research institutes and 18 centers of excellence that ensure the quality of research and education, especially for engineers. For the past year, UTM has consistently achieved great performance in GE, international consortia, SDGs and subject rankings, as well as R&D performance on and off campus. UTM is also the best place for engineering-led sciences, as the government has specially recognized the establishment of Faculty of AI. This is a remarkable step for the nation to accelerate key practical solutions for data science and machine learning in engineering design.

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