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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!
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!
We are very pleased to be Project Mailbox’s partner for the second time since their organization was formed! This is a “charity for other charities”, helping raise awareness and funds for other non-profit organizations. We have been selected as Project Mailbox’s March Charity of the Month, which involves an international organization that promotes aid and humanitarian help in other parts of the world. This is an ideal fit for us as we continue to work towards our next trip to Naluja, Zambia in order to implement our first project – the cell phone signal amplification antenna, as well as gather information for future projects. This is a wonderful fundraiser for you to participate in to help us reach our goals of returning to Zambia and to take a part in making global development a success.
The Project Mailbox runs through the entire month of March! So, any change (coins), cash, or other sources of funds that may help us towards our trip will be given directly to EWB-BU to spend on our projects in Zambia. Any such funds are much appreciated and will certainly be used efficiently to help thousands in the Naluja community. We all have change cast off in corners of our rooms, so instead of letting it accumulate dust – bring it to the Mailbox! Actually, any form of funds can be simply dropped off in the mailbox on your way back from class or when going out.
The mailbox has distinct red and white colors placed near Warren Towers, right outside of University Grill at 712 Commonwealth Avenue. Any amount of change can accumulate to make a big impact and enable us all to “make change” in our goal for global health and development.
The EWB-BU organization is ready and excited to present the first ever Film Festival! We have compiled a series of short films and feature length movies that will discuss both global development and the humanitarian work we do. As we continue our partnership with the community in Naluja, Zambia this film festival is intended to reach out to more people in order to raise awareness for global health and community development.
- When? March 2, 2013, starting at 11 a.m.
- Where? BU Photonics Center: 8 St. Mary’s St. Boston, MA 02215
- How Much? FREE!
- Why? There will be food from Cane’s, great movies to watch, exciting things to learn, and many people to meet!
- Films? We’ll have some excellent titles, including “The Shape of Water,” RX for Survival: A Global Health Challenge,” “AIDS Warrior,” and “Kids Living with Slim.”
The film festival will be a fun experience that will give you the opportunity to meet other students that are compassionate for helping communities that lack essential resources. We hope to unite all the organizations that are involved in global work and community-oriented efforts. This will establish a common ground platform for making connections, spreading awareness, gaining contacts from professional groups, and meeting motivated students through an entertaining and unique setting.
Guaranteed a great experience and meeting interesting people!
Making a profound impact in today’s developing world takes more than just one skill set, but rather the collaboration between groups to achieve success. In his book “The World is Flat”, Thomas Friedman vehemently claims that the world is smooth and the playing field of the world’s different countries has been flattened to a one-dimensional plane. Of course, this is just a metaphor to explain the global mechanism of today’s developing world in the twenty first century. Now are the days of increased competition for resources and knowledge. With that must come interpersonal connections and collaborations for optimal success.
The nature of Engineers Without Borders maintains a principle of multidisciplinary teamwork. Especially in our chapter at Boston University, we collaborate with a wide range of students, ranging from English majors to health professionals and mechanical engineers. As we look to make an impact on the world, currently focusing our efforts on the community of Naluja in Zambia, we must collaborate. However, the interactions do not stop here. As we move towards our goals of fulfilling humanitarian work, we must build even more “bridges” in this flattened world. Our partners in Naluja have become some of our closest allies in helping us achieve and implement our models for sustainability.
Moreover, donators and philanthropic sources are another set of people to whom we feel close to and must maintain relationships with. In order to successfully implement our projects, our multidisciplinary knowledge is not enough. The funds are needed to help us achieve and actualize our goals. As we have been discussing for the past month, the Year-End Campaign for EWB is a fantastic way for any person to become a philanthropist and take action to be part of EWB-BU’s success and change in the world. Any new teammates would be greatly appreciated, so if you are interested please check out our Year-End Campaign website. Our mind set is not limited in scope, but rather comprehensive and universal in nature as we strive to help native people ameliorate the lifestyle of their communities around the world. We are all global engineers that should unify and collectively, through collaborations, make a positive change.
We’re officially into our 2012 Year End Giving Campaign!
From November 26th to January 15th, EWB-USA has pledged to match any donations made by you! Half the funds will go to EWB-USA and half to our very own student chapter. That means we get 150% the donation amount, whether it’s $10 or $100, and your donation will have twice the impact.
EWB-USA is also setting a prize for the groups with (1) the largest amounts of donations, and (2) the largest number of donors! We’ve set a goal of $30,000 this year for our projects, so if you’d like to donate, you can check out our website, where you can easily donate by card, check, or stock! Here’s our donation form.
The money raised by this campaign will be put toward our chapter’s project in Zambia, where we’re working on three different projects — a cell signal antenna, water filtration system, and electricity generator. We’ve already created prototypes for these projects, and are hoping to make another trip to Zambia this summer to implement our antenna and assess the situation in Naluja for our water filtration and electricity generation projects.
You can help us make a difference!
“Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth.”
These are the words of Archimedes, a famous mathematician, engineer, and inventor who lived in 3rd century BC. He was referring, of course, to the “Law of the Lever” and that, with a long enough lever and with enough strength, even the heaviest objects could be moved — the Earth included.
Since Archimedes first put these words down, they’ve been repeated often, in the speeches of politicians, scientists, great literary minds, you name it. They’ve been used in the context of revolutions, presented to graduating classes of students, politicians’ speeches, etc.
There’s a good reason these words have been used so frequently. It’s because they’re true! We’ve always had the tools (the “levers”) to move the Earth and make a difference.
At no point in time has this been more true than present day, in which the world population numbers 7 billion individuals, the fastest computers have peak speeds of 20 petaflops per second, and the processing power in the average cellphone today is greater than the Apollo computers involved in the first moon landing. The point is, there is such great potential in so many areas and a large number of resources and opportunities available!
At a time when such incredible technological innovations and scientific advances are available, when there is so much valuable human capital to make a genuine and positive impact, and when resources are available, it seems preposterous that so many of the other 7 billion individuals live without the basic amenities to ensure their very survival. This feeling only increases when the disparity of living conditions, access to amenities, etc., is taken into context.
This is one of the topics we’ve recently covered during our “Common Ground” sessions. As students, we have great opportunities and resources. Many of our group members agreed with the idea that it’s our responsibility, our duty, our obligation to pass on some of the tools (the “levers”) that we’ve been given access to and knowledge of to others.
Change cannot occur through one individual, however. We doubt that Archimedes, as brilliant as he was, would ever be able to move the Earth using a lever. However, his contribution of this idea was just as important, because it put into motion the idea that such a widespread collaborative effort (a longer lever and greater strength, if you will) would be necessary to truly make a difference. Together, we can become the lever that sets this motion in change in the Naluja Community.
We can move the Earth! Figuratively, of course. It would never do for the Earth to shift from its orbit.
More Info: The picture (top left) was taken from the EWB-USA Columbia University Chapter’s Morocco Project, where they were able to build a chapter suspension bridge and connect two sides of the community.