In February 2015 I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend Engineers Without Borders Link Festival 2015. The festival is a coming together of people with ambitions to improve their world through technology, commerce, science and innovation, humanitarian work, engineering and architectural design. The event is arranged by EWB Australia and is proudly supported by Arup.
The festival takes place as a two day long conference with talks, panel discussions, workshops, games and breakout sessions similar to probably multiple networking conferences. What really set LinkFest2015 apart from other events; other than the amazing setting of Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne, was the amazing energy, ambition and drive of the attendees. I really believe that if the same “audience” had come together in an empty room similarly interesting, inspiring and idea generating discussion would be had without prompting. At each break there were small pockets of people discussing the logistics problems encountered in downtown Phnom Penh, the difficulties of working steel for deep sea diving vessels, micro-satellites and potential uses etc.
As a concept to connect people and ignite passion the event was definitely a success and I guarantee that someone in the room walked away with a world changing idea.
Of all the events that were ongoing I managed to attend a couple that really stuck out such as “Cultural Landscape & Design” which posed the question of how we as designers can incorporate the cultures of those around us and to what extent we should seek to preserve the past. This was a very interesting debate with the room somewhat divided on the balance between maintain the past for future generations and innovation in design.
Another event was “Designing the conversation – Hacking the mainstream mainframe”. While the title conjured ideas of the Matrix and computer programmers it was a very lively debate on how we as the public and designers in particular have the skills to shape the important conversations of our time. The panel discussed topics on changing the political conversation on asylum seekers through the use of mobile technology in the refugee community, accessing big data and using it to our advantage and how architecture can respond to and shape political will and discussion.
The highlight of the event had to be the Keynote Speech from Tim Jarvis; “Renegades and Resilience”, where he discussed his recent adventure in the Antarctic and compared the process of realizing this achievement to more mundane projects. A hugely entertaining speaker who made some insightful points to the process of delivering difficult projects. I could particularly empathise with his comparison of some stages of projects to being stuck with 5 full grown men, eating, sleeping and…everything else, in a space the size of two office desks.
The event was a great success and it was great to be able to tell people I worked for Arup who was one of the key sponsors and provided sustainability monitoring services to the event.
I would really encourage anyone to try to attend next year’s event as I am sure it will continue to grow and will be even better next year.