Magnusson trio to help build safe future for Malawi

01 June 2016

Magnusson trio to help build safe future for Malawi

Three Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) students will take their construction expertise to Malawi this summer in a bid to help protect schools against flooding, thanks to a generous scholarship donation from Sir Alex Ferguson.

Tim McQuade, a fourth-year BSc Quantity Surveying student; Warren Capaldi, a fourth-year Electrical Engineering student; and James Halliday, a second-year Environmental Civil Engineering student, will embark on the four-week project at the beginning of June.

The students have received a GCU Sir Alex Ferguson Award, part of a pledge by Sir Alex to donate £500,000 over the next 10 years through this and other GCU widening participation and mobility awards. The award is an extension of the Magnus Magnusson Awards, established in honour of the late broadcaster and former GCU chancellor Magnus Magnusson KBE, to provide funding and opportunities to help students and academics in their studies or careers.

While in Malawi, the three students will look to help schools develop a climate-resistant classroom block, which is a method of building structural walls with gabion baskets. These baskets allow water to flow through the wall without destroying the building, as happened during the recent floods Malawi has experienced. This style of construction is rarely seen in Africa, therefore the trio also hope to teach the local people the technique so they can use it in the future. The team will be working with Students For Malawi, a charity set up in 2010.

Tim said: “We decided on this project based on what we are currently studying and we believe our experiences so far, through work experience and university, will be of benefit as we are all construction students of one type or another.

“We have been learning about the floods through the Students For Malawi charity and, as far as I am aware, they are connected to climate change and are historically unusual. As well as destroying buildings, they have destroyed crops. This has plunged Malawi into severe food poverty.

“The Sir Alex Ferguson Magnusson Award will allow us to fund our trip in terms of charity fees, which pay for food and accommodation while we are in Malawi. It will help pay for flights, insurance, vaccinations and the like. Personally, it will help me stay financially stable while away, as I will still be paying rent in Glasgow. As Warren and I are in fourth year, it also allows us to focus on our studies, as our ability to fundraise is hampered by the amount of work we have to do before we leave.”

James added: “My programme (Environmental Civil Engineering) has given me an understanding of soil and its characteristics, which allows me to understand how much load can be placed when designing the foundations. In addition, it has provided me with the skills to be able to design the size of the foundation, know how much concrete to use and the size and amount of reinforcement needed. I have also picked up the necessary skills to set up the site and to accurately plan, monitor, and control the construction until completion.”