Wastewater treatment

A group of engineers and scientists from University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong and Dagon University in Yangon, Myanmar embarked on a cross-country and cross-disciplinary experiential learning project to work on one of the major environmental sustainability issues of the 21st century – wastewater treatment. 

In this reported pilot programme, 16 engineering students from University of Hong Kong travelled to Myanmar for a weeklong programme where they worked with 40 students from Dagon University to study wastewater quality at Yangon, Myanmar.  This project has enriched students’ understanding on the importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene as keys to national development.  They also experienced first-hand how engineering and science professionals can work together in developing solutions with real-world impact in wastewater treatment. Students from both universities collaborated in teams to design, develop, and deploy an experiment to examine the wastewater condition in Myanmar. Engineering students took the lead on the development of technologies (e.g. implementation of Arduino-based remote data sensing and cloud-based database) to measure and report the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) in wastewater samples, which is commonly used as an indicator of the degree of organic pollution of wastewater. Science students took the lead on the wastewater sample collections, the experimental design and the reporting of the results beyond the project time frame.

Details of the programme can be founded here.

Feature story - The Thoughtful Stitching

Written by Vienne Lin 

“Teachers have no longer been a source of knowledge. They are facilitators. They need to help students learn more than the teachers actually know,” Dr. C. K. Chui said matter-of-factly.

Dedicated to a variety of internationalisation projects, Dr. C. K. Chui, one of the CoP – ITL’s co-leaders, has undertaken a cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary and cross-border experiential learning project on waterwaste treatment. As a departure from the traditional engineering curriculum which attaches much weight to technical knowledge, this project aims to provide students at HKU with opportunities to develop hands-on experience with real-world impact and to sharpen individual professional skills, including lifelong learning skills and teamwork skills for global citizenship. Available for students within the Faculty of Engineering, this project is partnered with the Faculty of Science at the Dagon University (DU), Myanmar. 

Diversity as Challenge and Opportunity 

Challenging as it is, a group of young future engineers mixed with backgrounds, be they Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering or Environmental Engineering, comes together to solidify their own disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning and to help their local and overseas peers realise their potential to absorb information through the application of knowledge exchange workshops. Students were cleanly divided into groups: two HKU engineering students were paired up with five to six DU science students on site. Such meticulous grouping in effect smoothed over differences and offered a culturally and disciplinarily rich interchange to students of both sides. All students have braved smelly fields and farms to collect agricultural, industrial and underground waterwaste samples. Teamwork prevailed! 

Learning as Lifework

Lifelong learning skills can come in handy for future endeavours in life beyond school. According to a survey of the project, an overwhelming majority of students agreed that their lifelong learning skills were enhanced. Three salient skills were mentioned in particular. Time management speaks for itself. Although students were snowed under various deadlines, such as preparing run-downs, drafts, presentations, they were able to design and develop an efficient study plan under tight time constraints. Second comes effective study skills. Students have learnt how to find a right expert and ask a right question to advance their learning goals. The third goes to negotiation skills. In a diverse team, students has come to understand that each individual has a role to play, fulfilling separate but complementary needs.

Beyond Borders

Environmental sustainability as one key global issue was chosen as a site of investigation. To solve a problem, students have to know what the problem is. Students were proud of themselves who did not just sit comfortably in classroom, but capitalised on such experiential learning to improve lives of the citizens. Students were also able to identify other urban problems, such as lack of clean food and heavy traffic jams, facing Myanmar.  

Interdisciplinary teaching team

This pilot project was started in September 2016 initiated by the engineering faculty at the University of Hong Kong.
Teachers from various departments worked together to design an experiential learning programme for students to work on one of the major environmental sustainability issues of the 21st century – wastewater treatment.

Dr. C.K. Chui (Kit)
Faculty of Engineering
The University of Hong Kong
We believe our future engineers should nourish a sense of mission to make a better world with technological innovations. Engineering educators should engage students to explore the world, creating opportunities for them to learn about the needs of the underprivileged, and acquiring practical work experience in developing solutions with real-world impact.
Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning)
The University of Hong Kong
Professor Y.K. Kwok (Ricky)
Associate Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)
The University of Hong Kong
Professor C.M. Lau (Francis)
Department of Computer Science
Associate Dean (Quality Assurance and Special Projects) of the Faculty of Engineering
The University of Hong Kong
Dr. K.H. So (Hayden)
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
The University of Hong Kong
Professor L.H. Tham (George)
Department of Civil Engineering
Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning – UG and Special Projects) of the Faculty of Engineering
The University of Hong Kong
Professor Tong Zhang
Department of Civil Engineering
The University of Hong Kong

Student participants (Interdisciplinary in Engineering)

A group of knowledgeable, passionate and enthusiastic undergraduate students from various disciplines of HKU Engineering formed a pilot team to exchange Engineering knowledge with Science students in the Dagon University.
We aim to initiate long-term collaborations with universities in Myanmar, offering wider opportunities for HKU students to enrich their overseas learning experience.

Tin Sui Chan (Terence)
Environmetal Engineering
It is my greatest honor to be selected as one of the participants, representing HKU and exchanging knowledge with students in Myanmar. Frankly speaking, Engineering is a subject which encourages us to put our knowledge into practice. Likelihood, CodeXpress provides a platform for students, belonging to different professions and disciplines, to contribute their wisdom and construct an oxitop for monitoring wastewater quality in local area. It is also sincerely hoped that students could make borderless friends, regardless of different disciplines, complexion or nationality. Last but not the least, we always see ourselves not just a participant, but an ambassador. We guarantee that we would build a positive image of HKU and encourage the participation of follow-up activities in the foreseeable future.
Wing Hei Chan (Cyrus)
Computer Engineering
I am very glad to join this meaningful program. In the past, I used to enjoy the connivence of the technologies without thinking even of it. This time, we create something on our own. It is very exciting to see our ideas condensed into practical devices. The development process is tough but I have learnt a lot. The problem solving techniques is reinforced after lots of trial and error. In a boarder sense, this device will benefit the community. Clean water for everyone is an important issue in the Millennium Development Goals raised by the UN. This BOD device, if successful, can provide a lower cost method to monitor water quality. This kind of project is valuable because it takes future engineers to the community. Students can definitely learn a lot from it.
Aditi Dey Poonam
Biomedical Engineering
The main aim of this pilot programme of Codexpress is to collaborate engineering students of HKU with the science students of DU to combat wastewater management problems prevailing in Myanmar. As a Biomedical Engineering student, I hope to work as a bridge between the engineering and science students to deal with both the technological and biochemical aspects of the project. Being brought up in a developing country myself, I believe we can further introduce the success of our project in other countries in need of it.
Hei Ting Chow (City)
Mechanical Engineering
I am an outgoing student who would like to try new things and challenge myself. I believe through this pilot overseas experiential learning project, people from different backgrounds can exchange with each other and get inspired, collaborated to build a better future. Interaction with people of diverse backgrounds allows ideas bloom and we are able to develop something that can really help with the problem the world is facing.
Vaishali Girdhar (Shali)
Computer Science
One of the many reasons as to why I want to join this trip is because I want to combine the knowledge of science with computing to create a product or process for the betterment of the world. I have previous experience with C++, Adruino (with multiple sensors), and Databases (SQL), as well as extensive knowledge of waste water treatment, concepts such as biological oxygen demand, and the scientific process. My goal is to use computing and computer science technologies and combine them with scientific principles (such as the phenomenon of BOD) to make something useful and beneficial. Hence my passion for this trip, this trip encompasses what I want to achieve from my education, and I believe it will provide me with a great starting point to achieve my goals of using computer science technologies along with science to solve some of the pressing current issues. All in all, I want to join this trip because I feel as if this trip has been tailor-made for me, it fits my skill set and my passion perfectly. Moreover, it will help me do good for the people in Myanmar, which is one of the most important things to me.
Wei-Chen Huang (Benny)
Computer Engineering
I love coding, and I would do everything it takes to make my code better. I devote myself in learning many different technics range from data science to full-stack website developing. However, I always think I can do more than just coding. Then I found this program. I am excited about turning my knowledge into solution. Working on an environmental problem with my computer knowledge, and cooperating with people from different discipline both significantly enlarge my vision and enhance my communication skill.
Mohammad Owais Kerney (OK)
Computer Science
The problem of waste water disposal and its treatment is an alarming global issue. The inadequate treatment methods and irresponsible disposal by both developed and developing countries is causing havoc for the environment. In addition to being a threat to human health by triggering diseases like typhoid and cholera, the improper drainage of waste water disturbs entire ecosystems, adversely affecting marine and land flora and fauna. As a student and supporter of sustainability of the environment, this problem is of utmost importance to me.
Hiu Yan Leung (Kelie)
Electrical Engineering
Through this trip, I hope to apply my engineering knowledge in problem solving, and exchange knowledge and discuss with students from different disciplines.
Ka Wing Leung (Amanda)
Civil Engineering
It is of my great interest to get involved in this meaningful experiential trip in Myanmar. I am honored to use my knowledge and skills learnt at school to help with the BOD development of wastewater in Myanmar. I am looking forward to the multi-disciplinary academic exchange with HKU teammates and Dagon Universities's students from other fields such as the principles of Arduino and the transmissions from the database to the Internet. It is hoped that this would be a successful sustainable project and I could make an impact for Myanmar!
Tsz Fung Lo (Frankie)
Computer Science
Not only can I learn cross-disciplinary knowledge from different fields since we are going to cooperate with different parties like the Chemistry, Zoology students from Myanmar, but I can also assist those students who don’t possess much programming skills to pick up the basic skills required, after all, I am a CS student who fond of learning new things and persuade people to start learning sort of programming skills.
Syed Lutfe Sadee
Mechanical Engineering
My name is Sadee Syed Lutfe. I was born in Bangladesh but brought up in Hong Kong. I am a second year mechanical engineering at HKU. I can communicate in 5 different languages, namely English, Bengali, Cantonese, French and Hindi. The languages' fluencies are put in descending order.
My reason for joining this program is that to collaborate with people from different walks of life to work on something meaningful.
Firstly, I like meeting people with different stories to tell about their lives. One can learn something from everyone. This program is a great opportunity for me to meet students out of Hong Kong and further build and expand my network.
This is a meaningful and impactful project in my point of view. It is closely related to where my origin is, Bangladesh. I have been there numerous times and have noticed that the wastewater condition over there and it is not pleasant. This programme will be a great chance for me to attain knowledge on wastewater management and some software and hardware technologies that I can maybe one day bring back to my country. Maybe that's ambitious but certainly it will be a first step towards something big. Not only attain but also apply and share what I have learnt so far with students over there.
It is a valuable experience that I can share with people. It is important for HKU engineering students to have working experience out of Hong Kong and through this programme I can serve as an ambassador for HKU, as a result can share this experience with others, which benefits all.
I would like to thank you for providing such an opportunity for us students and highly appreciate your efforts towards us.
Pui Ying Shum (Mimi)
Civil Engineering
This programme attracts me in the way that it applies knowledge and theories into real-life problem and achieves cultural exchange. As a civil engineering student, I hope to build the world with a better environment. I have a strong interest in environmental engineering. Wastewater treatment is one of the core and important global issues in this discipline. In designing and constructing wastewater treatment project, it certainly involves the contribution and cooperation of different expertise. I am looking forward to working on the BOD testing device with my team and science students of DU. This would definitely give me new insight in addressing wastewater treatment problems, both locally and globally.
Sanjaied Sian Aziz (San)
Electrical Engineering
As an engineering student, I love solving real-world problems and challenges that have an impact on our community. According to a report by UNEP, over 90% of all wastewater in developing countries is discharged untreated, killing millions of people from water-borne diseases every year. Being an avid fan of electronics, I feel our wastewater treatment project in Myanmar will not only provide me an excellent opportunity to learn, innovate and put my technical knowledge to practical use but at the same time, it will also allow me to give back to the community and contribute towards sustainable development in developing countries.
Anchit Som
Computer Science
The developing countries of the world have been dealing with problems we rarely think about. Wastewater management is one of these problems as it directly deals with the need for better technologies. This initiative to develop such technologies in the form of low-cost BOD devices is a huge step forward in solving the world's problems. With the cross-disciplinary nature of this project, we can work as a team and come up with effective solutions. As a computer Science student, I not only get to set up databases and servers but also get to learn about sensors and their working. I feel honored to be working on this novel project towards engineering sustainability.
Fai Ho Wong (Dexter)
Civil Engineering
As a Civil Engineering student,I consider wastewater treatment as a necessity in the pursuit of sustainable development. For Myanmar to develop in a sustainable manner, having certain technology is the prerequisite. However, Myanmar is a developing country where technology may not be their specialties. Therefore, I view the programme as an excellent opportunity for me to apply my knowledge in wastewater treatment by assisting in this programme. The Dagon University, which does not establish any engineering programme, needs the support from our engineering faculty to provide technologies about wastewater treatment and that reminds me of the role of engineers and the reason I chose to study engineering. To me, engineers make significant contributions to develop advanced technology to build a better world for mankinds to live in. I hope that if I can be one of the students who can bring new technologies and ideas to the Myanmar, my experience can be useful in the future to keep helping those in need.
Jiun Lang Wong (Alexis)
Electrical Engineering
2 years ago, I took a course about Appropriate Technologies for Developing Worlds, during which I built a low-cost rechargeable torch with loads of innovative features. Since then I’ve been interested in building great things with minimal resources.
Throughout my days in tech start-ups, I’ve met people who’d previously worked on water facility projects in rural India. Technology alone can’t solve problems. It needs profitable business models and the people who know how to run and grow it.
I’m excited to join this trip for a number of reasons. First, it’s a precious opportunity for students and teachers to exchange knowledge and inspirations. Secondly, I’ve never been to Myanmar so now I have a great excuse to explore the beautiful country. Thirdly, I’m interested in starting a business soon, so what better ways, than if I can make a few more connections and get to explore the world in different ways.
Chun Kit Wong (Derek)
Electrical Engineering
This project provides a wonderful platform for engineering students to get some hands-on experience by applying knowledge from what we have learnt in the lectures. It is also a good chance for me to learn things outside my field like how coding helps in environmental sustainability, wastewater treatment methods and BOD testing device technologies, and more importantly to raise the awareness of wastewater problem as well.
Yik Chun Yeung (Bozco)
Civil Engineering
Without clean water, it would be difficult for us to survive with a relatively long life span. Therefore, it is essential for us to monitor the quality of wastewater before discharging the treated wastewater to environment. If we do not monitor the quality of discharged wastewater well, the wastewater discharged would pollute the clean water source and we no longer be able to obtain clean drinking water. The project this time in Myanmar can help me understanding more about wastewater treatment and the relationship between wastewater treatment and surrounding environment through experiential learning in Myanmar.