Theory / and / Action

The experience of working with the Sandon Point community happened in 2013 – at the very beginning of this project. First year Engineering at Wollongong University included an opportunity for students to engage with the Engineering Without Borders (EWB)  mChallenge – a project-based approach to learning about design, teamwork and communication through real, inspiring, sustainable cross-cultural development projects (http://www.ewbchallenge.org/)

It was decided to explore the possibility of applying that project approach to a local context, and Sandon Point was an obvious choice. However, in contrast with EWB it was possible for students to visit the actual site, which raised a number of issues about the propriety of doing so. In resolving how to address each of these issues the concept of the 5Rights© began to emerge as a coherent set of guiding principles. Their existence as a set of operating standards preceded the idea of the Sandon Point project, however applying them in this context highlighted how they simultaneously provide guidance and help to identify constraints operating in such contexts. Using them in this context set in train the evolution of this project, as well as the overall model which emerged from subsequent research, analysis and further applications of their way of guiding interactions and shaping connectedness.

The term ‘Abductive’ may not yet be as familiar as ‘inductive’ and ‘deductive’ in describing types of research but is the one most applicable to how this particular research has been evolving. In effect our work emerged from the theories embedded in the combined practice of those involved, rather than from application of theoretical concepts to those practices.

There is nothing so theoretical as good practice, nor so practical as a good theory, and these two inter-related concepts have been the guiding forces shaping the progress of our work.

As we move into the next phase there is opportunity for  co – creating theory and practice through engaging students and staff in the journey of re-discovering Aboriginal Engineering achievements, in the manner of the recent posting at http://www.stepup.edu.au/the-wandjina-chemistry-and-meteorology/

Which explores some of the science of Aboriginal civilisation, in much the same way we are re-discovering the engineering.

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