Young engineers making their contribution to change
Our travel team of three students and two mentors recently returned to the United States after our 2014 Implementation Trip in Naluja, Zambia. Students Lauren Etter, Scott Nickelsberg and Donovan Guttieres along with mentors Josh Das and Balaji Kamakoti successfully implemented the cell signal amplification system we developed and tested at BU this past year. In addition, the team completed a Pilot Implementation of the Biosand water filtration system while conducting water filter training workshops within the community of Naluja. We would like to share some of their experiences by posting this small photo gallery. Congratulations 2014 Travel Team! We are all excited about the great progress accomplished in Zambia and look forward to further improving our student-run organization and sustainable projects.
Photo 1: Tamika, Balaji, Donovan, and Josh posed at Victoria Falls, located in Zimbabwe just south of Zambia.
Photo 2: This photo depicts the first chance the travel team had to address the community; expecting a small group of community members, the entire team was shocked and excited to greet over 800 residents. Lauren Etter reflects on this “incredible” experience: “within five minutes of arriving, we were handed a microphone and told we had 45 minutes to speak to the community about our project. We had 45 minutes to transfer valuable knowledge; 45 minutes to help the community begin to make a difference. Our team realized that we had 45 minutes to establish an important base of knowledge in the community; this was an opportunity to connect with the community, and provide them with necessary knowledge about how they can construct a filtration device and use other methods of sanitation to help prevent diarrheal diseases. This first workshop put the entire project into perspective…we were not just providing these people with knowledge about how to construct a water filter…we were, rather, providing them with knowledge that they will use to make an immediate difference in their daily lives. “
Photo 3: Scott, Lauren, Balaji, and Donovan stood on the community’s water tower to perform preliminary testing of the network booster system. The team needed to test the system to locate the directionality of the strongest signal. The team utilized sustainable sources of power for use in the active booster system by also installing a solar panel to supply energy.
Photo 4: This depicts an educational session held with community members to transfer essential knowledge about the Biosand water filtration system. The team focused on providing information about the construction of the filters along with information on personal hygiene.
Photo 5: Community members help collect rocks for use in the water filters built for testing water quality. We must ensure the design provides high water quality before replicating it throughout the community for everyday use.
Photo 6: The travel team talked with the 25 headmen of the community at a meeting on their second day in Zambia. Donovan recalls: “It was quite humbling to receive their positive feedback and support, especially since the health clinic staff and ZCHARD were their to emphasize the importance of meeting halfway in terms of commitment to the projects.”
Starting the semester off with even more projects to consider, research, and prototype, we are looking forward to another year of work with the community in Naluja!
This summer marks the third trip to Naluja, Zambia, our partner community, and exciting progress for our chapter of Engineers Without Borders at BU. As we approach our August 2014 Implementation Trip, the travel team begins their preparation in anticipation of spending over two weeks in Zambia. This trip provides an invaluable opportunity to immerse in a different culture in order to understand the community’s needs and then provide for their needs with our sustainable projects. Over the past year, both the cell signal amplification and water-sanitation projects have seen much progress and project development, a testament to our dedicated members and technical groups. Our focus on this trip is a Pilot Implementation for our filtration system and secondImplementation for the cell amplification project. The travel team will embark on their journey to Zambia August 11th and return the 27th!
Our water-tech group made great strides with the filtration project this year and hopes to continue this success with water testing this summer. Next year’s E-board Vice President, Kayla Trexler, helped by providing Agar plates to compare water from the Charles River with water filtered by one of our prototyped Biosand filters. The summer plan is to get a fully functioning Biofilm layer on top of the filter—this layer is the most important part of the filtration process as it removes much of the bacteria present in the water. Water must be continuously added to the filter each day as the Biofilm layer forms as it requires continuous moisture to grow a microenvironment for bacteria to flourish. This aspect of the design will be a focus of education workshops with local members of the community and will therefore require close monitoring from our travel prep team.
As for the Cell Signal Antenna, this summer will be used for testing active boosters and considering the best way to get the most gain from the antenna. This summer’s trip will see great change from last year’s Yagi antenna system, replacing the passive system with a more functionally consistent active booster device. The improved design will use solar panels to provide an energy source for the active boosters, thereby preserving its sustainable features. But, with two main weather seasons present in Naluja—dry and wet—the dry season will see great use of the solar panels while the wet season brings threats of lightning to the antenna. Clearly, the summer months will be used to finalize the Signal Amplification design and to anticipate any obstacles the group may come across in country. The team is very excited to implement this device in the local health clinic where phone service is essential to communicating with patients and returning HIV test results to the mothers of newborns, as part of CGHD’s Project Mwana. To learn more about Project Mwana check out this link: http://unicefinnovation.org/projects/project-mwana.
Moving from the projects to the team itself: our travel team consists of three Boston University students and two mentors, one for the Cell Amplification Project and one for the Biosand Water Filtration Project. We are happy to announce the selection of Joshua Das and Balaji Kamakoti as this year’s tech mentors who will both be helping lead the group in Zambia this August. Of the students prepping for implementation abroad, Lauren Etter and Scott Nickelsberg are rising sophomores, while Donovan Guttieres is a rising junior and this coming year’s E-Board President. The preparation is quite time-consuming as each member needs to apply for a Visa, get vaccinations, and fully understand the construction process for both projects. Yet, the process will pay off because, as Donovan puts it, “successfully implementing our two current projects will hopefully initiate improvements in the community and education programs that will make our local partners self-dependent in order to expand projects on a community wide scale over the next few generations.”
Lauren shares what she anticipates will be the most exciting part of the implementation trip:
“I am most looking forward to meeting and interacting with the community on this trip. What we do at Engineers Without Borders is a collaborative effort, and being able to meet the community that we’ve been working with for the past several years is going to be surreal. I am really looking forward to it!”
While Scott looks forward to “seeing our protoypes become functional tools” in addition to “see[ing] the impact our projects have on the health of the community,” he also foresees trials ahead:
“I think our greatest challenge will be adapting to whatever does not go according to our pre-trip plans. We will be in an unfamiliar environment with few resources and limited time on site, so we will have to think carefully and quickly about how to approach whatever problems arise.”
No matter the challenges, the team will be working all summer to finalize each project, prepare for life in Zambia, and bond with their team members in order to travel as a cohesive and well-informed group while proudly representing BU and our EWB chapter abroad.They are representatives of our chapter and will serve as an extension of our group’s efforts and contributions from the past year as we envision more progress in our Naluja Community Health Program.
We wish our travel team the best of luck on their trip this August! Special thank you to all members of the prep team and generous partners who will assist the group throughout the summer and ensure its success! Stay tuned for more updates on the trip as it unfold
This Summer’s Student Travel Team!
Guest Blog Writer: Abigail Rendos, Secretary-elect
Global health improvement: three powerful words that embody EWB USA’s main goal and our focus, as EWB’s BU student Chapter, while we work towards improving health standards in Zambia. Often, these goals become a guideline of our responsibilities as BU engineers as we attempt to better the lives of those in our partner community by developing and implementing sustainable engineering designs. One of our main initiatives within the field of global health is a project aimed at increasing the quality of cell signal in Naluja, Zambia. Our Yagi Antenna, in partnership with CGHD’s Project Mwana, serves to expedite the delivery of newborn HIV test results through SMS text messages to the new mothers of the community. By hastening this process, more mothers will be able to take the measures necessary to ensure the health of their children during the critical stages of infancy.
Flow chart explanation of SMS text notification process
(Image from Frog Design For United Nations Children Fund)
These efforts are meant to help the locals of Naluja and to serve as an example for other communities as they also try to combat the prevalence of HIV using m-Health initiatives. Much of the health concern in Zambia revolves around the passing of HIV from mother to infant, which accounts for 21% of HIV contraction in Zambia overall (Steidenberg). Giving an expectant mother anti-viral medication can help prevent them from transferring the disease to their children, but if the infant does contract the disease, we hope that our antenna will ensure the infant starts receiving treatment as soon as possible. Early detection decreases the rate of mortality later in life, thereby increasing the standard of living for people with HIV/AIDS. It is a great way to positively impact lives in Zambia, as much of Africa is attempting similar programs to help lessen the impact of HIV. That is why we, within our EWB-BU chapter, are so excited for the progression of the Yagi Antenna project and are looking forward to bettering our current model during our upcoming Summer 2014 trip to Naluja!
A promising study conducted by the United Nations in multiple African countries shows a huge decrease in infant contraction of HIV/AIDS in recent years. Among others, Zambia “reported reductions of at least fifty percent” since 2009 (Stuart). This is an amazing feat for these countries whose main health concern has been HIV/AIDS for many years because of the inability to completely treat an infected person. Even more surprisingly, Ghana reported a 76% reduction of HIV in infants. These are breakthrough statistics for countries in Africa, as they set a great example for other developing regions struggling to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Even more encouraging is the use of a similar text message program by the World Health Organization, which has been implemented in other countries and regions of Zambia (Thea). The WHO’s use of text message transmission reassures our organization that the work we do does have an impact on our partner community and has the potential to change statistics. We hope our progress with the antenna in Zambia will help improve the chances of even more children surviving HIV and further reduce the amount contracting the disease in the first place. Global health improvement is at the core of our organization and is an integral part of increasing the standard of living for the people in Naluja.
Steidenberg, Phil, Donald Thea, Stephen Nicholson, Merrick Schaefer, Katherine Semrau, Maximillian Bweupe, Noel Masese, Rachael Bonawitz, Lastone Chitembo, and Caitlin Goggin. (n.d.): n. pag. World Heath Organization. WHO, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
Stuart, Elizabeth. “How to Achieve an AIDS Free Generation? Ghana Has a Few Ideas.” Global Post. Global Post-International News, 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
Guest blog writer: Laura Windmuller, former president of EWB-BU (2012-2013)
If you’re not already involved with Engineers Without Borders, you should be. People may offer a lot of different and valid reasons why, but I’m going to give you a few of my own.
You will meet new people. For freshmen or transfer students, it’s the cheesy “get involved and make friends”. Like other groups, you will get to meet people outside the sphere of your normal interactions in the dorms or classrooms. Particularly for engineers, the chance to meet upperclassmen can be extremely helpful when navigating the perils of a rigorous undergrad course load. However, EWB doesn’t just limit you to people on campus. You get to work with people even further outside your sphere. You can email with community health workers about our partnering community’s health burden. You can hear from world-renowned speakers like Jeffery Sachs at the Millennium Campus Conference. You can network with engineering professionals who oversee our projects. Pushing yourself outside of the normal collegiate routines and experiences by joining EWB will offer an incredible opportunity to make new friends that have a hugely diverse perspective.
You get hands-on and practical experience in both engineering and non-engineering matters. Since our group is student-led, we handle everything from fundraising to project management to travel logistics. This means, you don’t get locked into either the technical or administrative unless you want to. We offer options. What makes our group unique from others is the high-stakes client-facing nature of our work. We are not cutting checks to foundations or completing projects at the directive of a professor. These are meaningful projects that are directed by the needs of a “client” (i.e. our partnering community). In these circumstances, you will grapple with ambiguity and unknowns since it’s no longer a professor creating a problem statement or stating design requirements that guide your work. You have to ask the right questions and make the correct assumptions in order to succeed. I can tell you that you won’t experience this type of scenario until your senior year at most universities. When I say “high-stakes”, I mean that the results of your work affect more than your GPA; it will affect the daily lives of citizens thousands of miles away. We make promises to our partners and we have to deliver on them. Your participation and work affects our ability to do so. This is about much more than just a grade. It’s about our credibility, our partnering community’s health, and our supporters’ trust. Everything from the airline tickets to the first aid prep to the technology testing contributes to our success, and all of this work is done by people like you.
It is the perfect topic for interviews. I can’t guarantee you will get a job or into graduate school just by joining EWB, but I can say that it has helped a significant number of alumni during interviews. EWB act as a perfect and unique case study for showing off your experience, skill set, and personal interests. While some people may be in a sport or cultural group, you get to discuss how you raised $2000 at a silent auction or designed a Yagi antenna for a public health initiative. For a select few, you may even get to discuss your personal visit to a partnering community and the various challenges you faced there. However you participated in EWB, you can easily impress any interviewer by discussing our work and your unique contribution to it. Now, some people may be upset that I raised this point since it doesn’t necessarily reflect the core values of our group. However, I don’t think anybody remains a part of EWB as a resume builder. It’s not a strong enough motive to have people put in the time and effort we require. I think it’s only fair that those who commit to our work feel free to discuss all the wonderful skills and experiences they have gotten from it—guilt free!
During my time with EWB, I have found dozens of reasons to care about this group. If you’re hesitant to join, please don’t be. There is so much you can do as part of our team. Don’t miss out because you never tried.
Find out more by visiting our site, blog, twitter, and facebook page!
Entering the new year of 2014 has given us a chance to re-evaluate the progress of our student chapter and development of our program in Naluja, Zambia. Recounting the successes of 2013, we were fortunate to send a travel team to Zambia during the month of August in order to implement the Cell Phone Signal Amplification project. During that trip, we were also able to complete an assessment for the water filtration system we are working on, as well as strengthen the bond with our many friends in Naluja, Zambia. We have made great strides in project development and growing our student chapter at Boston University. It has been a time of more learning, planning, and building as we look forward to another potential trip during the summer of this year.
The preparation necessary for another trip involves more thorough project prototyping, development of education manuals for local villagers, correspondence with our NGO partners on the grounds (ZCHARD), day-to-day itinerary, equipment management, lodging, and much more. All these steps are necessary for a smooth and successfully trip. However, the two most important that come to mind are project development at BU and raising funds for sending students and mentors to Zambia. The first is essential for effectively installing the most sustainable and cost-efficient design for any particular project we are working on. Our goals for this next trip are to implement the water filtration system, monitor and improve the Yagi Antenna that was implemented last year, and continue to collaborate with our partners on any additional projects such as undergoing a more thorough health assessment.
The fundraising aspect of our organization is the second pillar that enables us to fulfill our goals and help bring development to the Naluja catchment in Zambia. With the ever-growing prices of airfare, gas, lodging, and project equipment it is always a struggle to raise the necessary funds for our trips. Therefore, we make it a priority to have fundraising events, such as Project Mailbox and our annual Silent Auction, to help with the allocation of funds for our projects and trip. Indeed, without the support from our large EWB family, comprised of several departments at BU, ZCHARD, partners, and members and their families – we would not be able to achieve all that we have done so far. Currently, we are in the midst of our Year-End Campaign – a season long effort to help our student chapter acquire the necessary funds to make this year’s trip possible and goals met. We are excited to embark on another journey of development and relations with our partners in Zambia, as we are sure that this year will also bring successes. Finishing the holiday season, we ask you to contribute to our campaign and joins us as we GEAR UP to finalize projects and plan a summer trip. Any small donation, letter of support, or technical advice has a significant impact, so we are more than happy for you to join our cause to help bring global health to some remote areas of Zambia!
Please feel free to read more on this campaign on our EWB-USA page and contact us with any questions!
Our Boston University chapter of EWB made significant progress towards raising funds for our next implementation trip after hosting a ninth annual silent auction on Thursday October 24th. This wonderful event featured many exquisite and fun items to bid on, which can be categorized into three very different categories:
Many of the items up for bidding were generously donated by corporations or restaurants from the greater Boston area. These include a discounted stay at the Hyatt Harborside hotel, the newly opened Pavement Coffee House, exhilarating passes to skyzone, and much more. The range of items auctioned and the affordable prices, made many of these appealing items to those who attended.
Boston University faculty
We were very happy to showcase delicious assortments of pastries prepared by several of the faculty at BU, who have supported our organization for many years. Their help and dedication is always appreciated as we are a growing student organization that is always looking to reach out further into the BU community.
Items from Zambia
The travel team that returned to Boston in august was able to acquire several authentic items from the local regions where our partner community is located. These include wood-carved penholders, beautiful and colorful paintings, and a fierce lion figure, among others.
Along with the bidding of the items, we were fortunate to have a guest lecture from Dr. Christopher Gill, a faculty of international health and infectious disease. He has worked on maternal health projects around Zambia for the past several years, undergoing clinical trials for improving neonatal survival in developing regions that are prone to early child mortality due to a range of diseases. His presentation focused on CGHD’s Lufwanyama Neonatal Survival Project (LUNESP), for which he was a principle investigator for, which sought to teach local birth attendants proper techniques to take precautions and treat infants to reduce neonatal mortality in the region of Zambia. This gave us a wonderful perspective on another aspect of global health development near our partner community of Naluja.
The students and professors who were able to attend and support our work in Zambia demonstrated our success at the event. Ultimately, after finalizing our finances, the $1200 we were able to raise from the event pushed us forward in our efforts in planning a third trip to Naluja, Zambia during the summer of 2014. We are currently undergoing design modifications and prototyping to determine the most applicable and sustainable water-filtration system that we will be able to implement in Zambia during the summer of 2014. Furthermore, we are looking into improving the Yagi antenna that was implemented this past August in order to maximize the impact it can have by increasing cell signal to support project Mwana and local communication.
We would like to thank all of our sponsors, companies that donated items, professors, and students in our organization for helping make this event possible and successful in moving us one step closer to our goals of improving the community health of Naluja, Zambia! We would like to note a special thank-you to Saana McDaniel and Kara LeFort, our fundraising chair, for putting all their efforts in organizing this event. We look forward to working with all of you in the future, as we continue to move forward in our partnership with the local community of Naluja, Zambia.
With the onset of greater global communication and ease of transportation around the world, the number of humanitarian efforts has grown exponentially in the past few decades. Engineering, healthcare, and science fields have especially been driving contenders in a common goal for global development around the world. The breadth and speed of such international aid has been made a priority by both major government and NGO institutions. For example, the United Nations Development Program, established in 1965 by UN’s General Assembly, is an effort to take a stand on global improvement for all who need it. With affiliations in over 150 countries, they have formed a network of programs to improve people’s quality of life in underdeveloped countries and have established “Millennium Development Goals” in order to track progress. Indeed, there have been a plethora of organizations established to provide humanitarian needs in an effort to improve people’s quotidian lifestyle – i.e: Engineering Without Borders, established in the United States in 2001.
Global development efforts can be approached in a multitude of ways, as they impact every aspect of a community’s social life. It may come in the form of education, foreign monetary aid, poverty reduction efforts, implementation of projects, infrastructure, or ensuring human equality. Currently, the efforts for global change and improvement have had an astounding impact in bringing help to millions of people in impoverished communities. Spearheaded by the UN’s eight Millennium announcement, announced in 2000, are goals that researchers and other humanitarian workers will strive to achieve by 2020. These marked one of the first comprehensive and holistic programs for becoming aware and acting upon the issues around the world.
The Boston University EWB chapter has assisted in spreading awareness for global change by contributing to the effort for improving communities in developing countries. Our Yagi Cell Signal Amplification project, aimed at expediting the retrieval of blood test results to mothers, and water sanitation project are both part of UN’s eight Millennium goals, as we are working towards making a direct impact within our partner community of Naluja, Zambia. When in great numbers, this local approach to global development can have a significant influence on a region. The spread of knowledge can make communities self-dependent and educated enough to implement sustainable projects in surrounding areas. Also, the personal contact that comes with a local partnership enables close progress of development and confidence that improvements are being made through monitoring efforts.
The culmination of many developmental efforts within a country has the potential to have an even more significant impact on social change. Efforts for global aid, such as infrastructure and implementation of necessary solutions for improved health, form a stage for further progress in the country’s other sectors. In a more holistic view of global development, domestic progress can enable economic security and political stability to take form. These are essential attributes for maintaining a resourceful public sector, while enabling the growth of private business for diversification of the economy and a growing workforce. Furthermore, once infrastructural development has been achieved, the issue of human rights and equality can become a central focus in order to ensure flourishing relations among people. Ideally, with such development, a country will be able to join the globalization of the past few decades in order to contribute and benefit from a more unified and collaborative global effort.
Assessing contributions that have already been made to the common goal for global change makes us realize the incessant need for more change and ethical issue of humanitarian goodness through collaboration. The waves of financial crisis coupled with major natural disasters have had an impact on the rate of development. However, the growing innovations in technology and healthcare have led to the development of simple, sophisticated, and sustainable solutions that can have a significant impact on future development. As stated by One World One People, an initiative to unite efforts for global change, “when humanitarian Individuals, Groups and Organizations link-up and combine their numbers and strengths – they will all succeed!” This embodies the social responsibility each of us must take upon ourselves in order to evolve humanity as a whole and ensure further exponential growth in the developing world.
During the past few months at Boston University, the streets that were bustling and full of action during the final weeks of the semester were tuned down as the summer atmosphere settled in. However, the pleasing environment is a great time for our organization to get even more work done as we have finalized preparations for our trip to Naluja, Zambia!
Our travel teams and students are very excited for the upcoming trip and have been through weeks of preparation to achieve our goals in Zambia.
What we hope to achieve
The trip will take place August 10th – 27th, giving us much time to spend with our partner community and accomplish goals for the three projects we are currently working on. Our partner community is a small village in a rural region located in the Kalomo District of Zambia’s Southern Province. The population is approximately 15,000 and centered around the community’s only health clinic. This will be our second trip to Naluja, following last summer’s assessment trip and first encounter with the people of the community.
Having progressed on our three projects throughout the year, we anticipate the trip to improve the community’s health conditions and continue our mutual goal for development. Our focus will be implementing the Cell Phone Signal Amplification project, using a double Yagi-Yagi system. We have fine-tuned the model of the project in order to get the best possible boost in cell signal, while ensuring simple construction, minimum maintenance, and sustainability. We also hope this will bring support to CGHD’s (Center for Global Health & Development) and ZCHARD’s (Zambia Center for Applied Health and Research Development) text-messaging system that looks to improve the communication of medical blood-tests that scan for HIV in infants. Expediting the transmission of results from the medical centers in the nearby cities to the remote the village is essential to tend to the health needs of the infants at their most precarious stage of life. Also, amplifying signals will promote greater intra-community communication and greater outreach outside of the village. This trip will also serve as an assessment for our two remaining projects – water filtration and power generation. The assessment phase of these projects is crucial to acquire information from the environment and data from the clinic in order to weigh the feasibility of designs we will start prototyping this coming fall.
Furthermore, another goal of this trip is to strengthen our ties with the community and local partners in order to move forward towards accomplishing more in the next few years. Having a close contact with our partners will help us gain a better understanding of what they need to improve community health and what they would like to improve in their village. We hope to gain more information to think of future projects that will further community development.
Meet our travel team
The travel team that will embark on this exciting journey is composed of two Boston University students and two mentors from the EWB-Boston professionals network. The two students – Nathanael Lee and Dan Sade – make up a well-rounded and motivated group that have the determination and skills needed to take on such an experience. Furthermore, the two mentors – Mohammed Jafri and Hunter Chaconas – will bring their professional expertise in ensuring that implementation and assessments are done properly. We are fortunate to have Mr. Jafri return to our travel team for the second year, as he will oversee both the Cell Signal Amplification and Power Generation projects. Mr. Chaconas, our newest mentor, has been working close with students in the water filtration group as he plans to oversee that aspect of the trip. All students and mentors will work closely and in a collaborative manner to accomplish our goals on this trip.
Nathanael is a rising junior in BME and is a returning member from last year’s travel team. Going for the second time will give him a unique perspective as he will be able to witness the progress between the previous trip and the upcoming one. He has been involved in much of the travel preparations, prototyping of projects, and lead of power-generator project. His experience from the previous trip will bring great insight as the other students make their first encounter with the locals of Naluja.
Dan is a rising senior in ME and has done much work on the Yagi Antenna and mapping of the region in Zambia. Having a keen eye of exploration and adventures, he had the following to say when pondering about the approaching trip: “I am very excited for the trip. I think we have a lot of responsibility representing the chapter, and I look forward to executing our mission in Naluja. I also look forward to meeting new people along the way in Zambia… I’d like to leave Zambia with a better understanding of how Zambians see themselves in today’s global age. More precisely, how they view themselves individually on the world stage, what their aspirations are for their nation, and what they think the country should become going forward.”
Travel team and other EWB members prototyping our Yagi Antenna!
Preparations: Over the course of the past few months we have been busy preparing for impending lift off to Zambia, a journey that takes over a day to reach our final destination. The summer calm has given us time to coordinate with our local partners, prepare equipment for building, plan logistics, and complete other travel preparations such as renting camping gear from the BU Outdoor Club and filling paperwork for international travel. A few weeks ago, the travel team and other members of our chapter met for a comprehensive tech-day that involved prototyping and presentations of all three of our projects.
The culmination to our trip has been the product of a close collaborative effort between our partners in Zambia, executive team, general members, travelers, mentors, partners in Boston, and Boston University departments – College of Engineering and CGHD. We are fortunate to have the support and opportunity to return to Naluja in order to continue our progress towards improved community health. It brings us much joy and motivation to embark on this journey as we look to accomplish our goals and set new ones for the coming academic year! Best of luck to our travel team!
To our great delight, we have a long list of devoted students who are continuously involved in our chapter at Boston University. At the beginning of every year, students express much interest in participating in our mission to raise awareness for global development. Furthermore, they are always excited to join our technical groups by helping prototype projects that will help move towards our implementation goals in Zambia. Interestingly, the holistic EWB process is sometimes overlooked when students join our group in the middle of a program, as the one in Naluja.
For our members and partners, we believe that it helps to have an understanding of each step of the process in order to move towards our yearly goals. The article below will outline the major steps involved from the conception (start) to culmination (closure) of a program and describe our current place in the process. We hope that such an overview of the program cycle will help give you a better understanding of the steps that were needed to achieve our present state and our vision as we move towards our goals.
Phase One: Starting a Program
EWB emphasizes a community-driven approach to development, in which the community-in-need must be well structured and have a thorough understanding of their needs. EWB’s review committee grants program approval to a community only after a thorough analysis of its drive for improvement, local partnerships, and community agreement if accepted. After an EWB-chapter applies to adopt a community program, the two partners start a close relationship that will strive for many years after the program’s inauguration. At this point, the EWB-USA chapter has engaged in a commitment that will last a minimum of five years, giving much time for setting and accomplishing precise goals for community development and increased health.
As you may know, our chapter started a partnership with the community in Naluja, Zambia just a few years ago.
Phase Two: Assessment and Prototyping
This phase of the process usually occurs between three months and one year from the time when a partnership has been established and approved between the EWB-chapter and community. This phase includes thorough research of the many different factors related to our community. There is first an investigation of the community’s geological landscape, available resources, cultural adherences, and the people’s most dire community needs. Through much cooperation and communication with community authority and surrounding NGO partners, we establish goals to assess the community’s needs. A comprehensive community assessment is made by a first assessment trip. This is an exciting time to meet, in person, our partners in their local village, while gathering much needed information on which projects we will be researching and propose engineering solutions that will address the community’s problems. It is also for strengthening collaborative ties and partnerships with our partners. During the summer of 2012, our EWB chapter at BU sent three students and a mentor on its first assessment trip, gathering much information to work towards implementing the cell signal amplification project. The assessment phase of a program is also a time during which projects are researched and prototyped until the most sustainable, economically manageable, and efficient project is proposed to the community to resolve one or more of their community issues. Our chapter is currently in this phase of the process for two additional projects in the program in Zambia – water sanitation and power generation.
Phase Three: Implementation
The crossover to this phase of the process is achieved when a final design is proposed and approved for implementation in the community. This can only be done after a thorough analysis of the project’s sustainability, a certitude that the project will be accepted and wanted by the community, and that detailed plans are made for on-site implementation. There is much preparation involved in making sure that any foreseeable obstacles will be addressed and that all measures are taken when the project is installed, in order to ensure its successful use by community members. There are multiple aims to an implementation trip, which our chapter will be conducting this coming August. The first is to successfully implement a project and ensure that it functions properly, fulfilling the community’s need. Another important goal is the dissipation of information by giving community members tutorials on how to build, fix, and monitor devices that are implemented. This also involves the preparation of a project manual and education material that will emphasize the importance of acquiring knowledge about the problems the people face and projects that are implemented. It gives an opportunity for community members to realize the importance of implementing change to improve overall health and teaches them the skills necessary to build more such models of the project for personal use. In conjunction to the implementation trip, our chapter will also gather information as part of an assessment trip for the water and power projects, as mentioned above.
Phase Four: Monitoring and Contemplation
After a project has been successfully implemented in a community, there is a monitoring period of several years during which a close collaboration is maintained with the community in order to ensure that all projects are functioning properly and optimally. Once a project has reached this phase, it can also be a time to implement more projects to improve other aspects of the community’s health. In all cases, the EWB-chapter still continues to monitor all of the projects’ progress. Our chapter is moving fast and on track to reaching this phase for at least one project in the near future. This will certainly be a moment of reflection as we will look back at our hard work and hopefully celebrate improved health with many of our friends in Naluja. We will be able to learn from our experiences, improve our tactics, and look forward to more ways of helping our partners by engaging in the efforts for global development.
This is an overview of the EWB cycle, without getting too entwined with the plethora of paperwork needed at each stage of the process. It brings much joy and hope for global health when our year’s goals are successfully reached in our partner community in Zambia. However, taking a step back enables a more holistic vision of all the accomplishments that have been reached so far and the steps that lie ahead of us in the process.
As the academic year comes to an end, it is always a time of personal reflection and mixed emotions. The Engineers Without Borders chapter at BU works holistically as a group, combining the efforts of all its members to reach the year’s goals. Indeed, each year the organization is headed by an executive board that guides the body towards actualizing the visions we have. They work consistently with both students and partners to accomplish as much as possible in the span of just two semesters. However, as a new academic year waits, the E-Board transitions to a new group of students that will be indispensible to move towards our long-term goals in Naluja and beyond.
As the current E-board seamlessly transfers its wisdom to the new executive board during the transition phase, we are very thankful for their work this past year. Their efforts and passion for EWB is expressed with much excitement every time they advocate EWB and other global development initiatives. By virtue, they became role models for all members and were a defining part in making the program in Naluja a success thus far. This is also a time to assess what the next goals will be, starting with our first implementation trip this summer, and further objectives that will help reach the same vision – providing sustainable solutions for global development and community health.
The E-board for the 2013-2014 academic year will comprise of three returning members: Krutika Hosur (Vice President), Shreya, Deshmukh (Program Chair), and Donovan Guttieres (Secretary). We are proud to welcome the new members of the executive board, and look forward to further accomplishing our vision in the upcoming year. Here is a message they have for the members and partners of EWB-BU:
Alan Pacheco – President
I’m honored to lead EWB-BU and am very excited for the year we have ahead. As our projects begin to get off the ground, we will need the various skills that all group members and partners provide to ensure our goals are met. I believe we are capable of making a concrete difference in Naluja and am greatly looking forward to working with all our members and our new E-Board.
Teresa Fulcher – Social and Networking Chair
Future sustainable technologies and the development of global health systems is in our hands, ALL OF OURS; engineers and non-engineers alike! I wish to join hands with public health workers, BU faculty, and the general student population to show people how they can help us take our next steps. Everyone has something to offer and a few more links in our organization could turn a few ideas into great progress this year.
Kara Le Fort – Fundraising Chair
As a member of the E-board, I am looking forward to finding a more dependable financial source next year. Our project needs a somewhat continuous funding source to truly meet the goals we want to reach. I am also excited about planning the fundraising events on campus not only because they are fun but also because they are great way to get the whole EWB team involved and raise awareness around BU.
Taka Suzuki – Treasurer
I am very excited about this upcoming year, and I will work hard to be a good treasurer! Feel free to talk to me about anything! I am looking forward to meeting new members!