Engineers Without Borders

Posted on April 7, 2008  Comments (2)

Engineering as diplomacy

You cannot look into the eyes of a child who is dying from a disease caused by drinking dirty water — something that rarely, if ever, happens in the United States — and not feel changed. You cannot stand before her parents without thinking, “I’m an engineer. There must be something I can do.”

A year later, I returned with 10 engineering students from the University of Colorado. We devised a rudimentary pumping system, bringing water to the people of San Pablo. Today, the village’s young girls go to school and are healthier.

That trip was a transforming experience, not just for the villagers, but also for me. Intuitively, we engineers like things big — expansive bridges, colossal dams, massive tunnels. My experience taught me that small-scale engineering can have the most impact on people’s lives.

When I returned to Boulder, I began building something else: Engineers Without Borders — USA. The organization was formed out of the conviction that engineers have a leadership role to play in addressing some of the world’s most serious problems: contaminated water, poor sanitation systems, expensive or harmful energy sources.

In a world focused on bigger and newer, there is growing recognition that small-scale engineering can play a major role in helping end the cycle of poverty that persists among almost half the world’s population. Studies by the World Bank and United Nations suggest the most basic technology is critical to bringing more than 3 billion people out of poverty.

Today EWB-USA counts more than 11,000 student and professional engineers as members and works in 43 countries on 300 projects involving water, sanitation, energy and shelter. Whether it’s combining sustainable technologies with advanced construction techniques to bring affordable housing to pockets of the world, drilling drinking water wells in Kenya, constructing fog collectors in the Himalayas to harvest fresh water or installing solar panels to provide energy for a remote hospital in Rwanda, we are healing communities throughout the globe, giving people dignity and hope for better lives.

Engineers without Borders is another vivid example of the benefits engineering brings to society.

Related: Engineering a Better WorldScientists and Engineers Without BordersKick Start Appropriate Technology

2 Responses to “Engineers Without Borders”

  1. Justin
    April 7th, 2008 @ 11:22 am

    Nice organization. I’m currently a physics major, but use to be a Biosystems engineering major here at UT Knoxville.

    I agree that there is a certain level of social responsibility that comes with the knowledge an engineer has. I’ll be checking out this site.

  2. kangomommy
    April 9th, 2008 @ 2:52 am

    This post made me think of the UNICEF program regarding clean water in developing countries:

    http://www.etonline.com/news/2008/03/59703/index.html

    http://www.tapproject.org/

    Organizations such as EWB and UNICEF are so crucial in assisting those outside of the US.

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