Engineers Without Borders at Boston University

Young engineers making their contribution to change

Jan

13

The Global Nature of EWB

By ewbexec

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.

Dec

30

North East Regional Conference 2012!

By ewbexec

Hello Everyone!

The end of the fall semester is always a hectic period with finals and the winter recess, but we want to get you connected with the most recent activity going on with EWB. Every November we look forward to the Northeast Region Conference hosted for all EWB chapters in the New England area. This year it was our privilege to have a group of six devoted attend the conference.  They learned a lot of information from distinguished speakers and had the opportunity to interact with neighboring chapters. The students had only great things to say about their experiences, so we want to tell you about it also!

Our EWB-BU Team!

As we continue our partnership with the Naluja community in Zambia, the presentations helped understand the essential features needed to build an optimal relationship. Such a relation is vital in finding the core issues in a community and proposing long-term solutions that will fit the needs of the people. We must be knowledgeable of the social and cultural identity of our community; one of the ways we’re doing this is through close contact and open communication. Also, they emphasized the notion of embracing every step of a project as a special bond is formed between the EWB chapter and community. Furthermore, a synchronous relationship should build as teams of students will be mentored and in turn educate the people in communities on the issues and proposed solutions.

Another takeaway from the conference were the many professional speakers who talked about specific projects they were working on with their respective chapters. This was very informative and helpful to us as it provided a breadth of extra information for us to consider as we begin to model and prototype our own projects. For example, when implementing a water filtration system, an important attribute to consider is the presence of natural sources, such as hills, that would ease accessibility and movement of water. Also, community choice is vital in ensuring that the engineering solutions we are proposing will satisfy their needs.

One of many interesting lectures

We hope that this will give you some insight on the exciting           relationship between EWB-BU and our partner community in Zambia. We are looking forward to using all of this information to improve     our projects and relation with our partners, as we seek to make a change!

Dec

13

2012 Year End Giving Campaign

By ewbexec

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!


Nov

18

Silent Auction 2012 Wrap-Up

By ewbexec

We successfully held our 8th Annual Silent Auction “Nimwela” on Friday, November 9th! We raised over $1800 for our partnership with with the Naluja Community in Zambia! It was a great way for us to let everyone know what we’ve been up to these last couple of months and about our trip over the summer and we had a great time with many of the students, staff, alumni, and faculty members attending.

We had many exciting items up for auction, including:

  • “Cookie of the Month” by Professor Stormy Attaway
  • Tickets to Disney on Ice at TD Garden
  • After Work Pool Party from Jillian’s/Lucky Strike Boston
  • Weekend Stay at the Liberty Hotel in Boston
  • Authentic Zambian Items, including tea sets, baskets, and jewelry

… and much more! We also had an exciting keynote speaker in Julie Herlihy, who is currently working as an Assistant Professor in International Health and Pediatrics at Boston University’s Center for Global Health & Development (CGHD). Julie is a board-certified physician and has worked in Boston, Liberia, and Zambia. Dr. Herlihy has also worked as a volunteer school teacher in Zimbabwe. She is an absolute inspiration and we thank her for taking the time out of her busy schedule to speak at our Silent Auction! For more information, check out her profile. Julie talked about her experiences working in Africa, as well as Project Mwana (which our antenna project is based off of), and the need for and potential from more integration and collaboration between doctors and engineers in order to increase health care standards.

The evening was a lot of fun. In addition to great auction items and an inspirational figure in Julie, we were able to hear our Zambia travel team speak. They spoke of the conditions they found in the Naluja Community during the summer, the work they’ve been able to do so far, and what we hope to accomplish in the next year and beyond.

We heard not only about Project Mwana, which our project is based on, but also about the water quality conditions and how the Naluja Clinic runs. The travel team had some fun stories for us about how everyone received a Zambian name, a Nalujan kid was able to win a slingshot off one of our travelers, and how there were even a couple of marriage proposals! It was a great way to reconnect our Silent Auction with what we’re trying to achieve in Naluja. For more information about our project, check out our website or EWB-USA profile.

Thank-You! This could not have happened without your support.

We would like to thank our awesome Fundraising team, and our Fundraising Chair James Parsons and Silent Auction guru Saana McDaniel of the BU Mechanical Engineering Department in particular. Everyone put forth a lot of time and effort as well, and were integral to making this event successful!

Lastly, but certainly not least, we would like to thank all who attended, in addition to our supporters and donors. We could not have done it without you! Check out the full list here.

Check out more photos of our Silent Auction on our facebook page!

Nov

11

A Place to Stand

By ewbexec

“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.

Oct

28

Common Ground — Food for Thought

By ewbexec

Our most recent meetings have introduced a new element called “Common Ground”! We’ve introduced them as a way to get perspective on the work we’ve been doing as a student group and to draw inspiration from other people in the world of global development who’ve successfully been able to make a change.

As students, it’s easy for us to get bogged down in the everyday tasks and develop tunnel vision. There’s always another problem set or essay due, email that needs to be taken care of, material to study, sleep to catch up on. But it’s important to us that we don’t develop tunnel vision and ignore the larger reason of why we’re involved in such an extraordinary group as Engineers Without Borders. Common Ground has been a way for us to set aside a couple of minutes every other week and reflect on what we’re doing, have done, and are looking forward to achieving. Last year, it was to break ground on our Naluja Program by sending travelers to Zambia. This year, it’s been to work on developing antenna prototypes, and start research into water quality, sanitation, and power generation. It’s a lot to take on, but we’ve been diligently working on making progress in time for next year.

Below is one of the recent videos we’ve watched, entitled “Build a Tower, Build a Team” and featuring Tom Wujec, who is a Fellow at Autodesk and has worked on business visualization, which utilizes design and technology to help groupwork become more efficient by understanding ideas and problem solving. The premise of his experiment is simple — to have groups of people (businessmen, engineers, lawyers, and even kindergartners!) build the highest tower using dry spaghetti, one yard of tape, and one marshmellow. Who built the highest structure? Well, the results might surprise you.

This video has showed us how important collaboration is among engineers. No one person can attain success all on his/her own, especially on something as important as our program and projects in Naluja. We hope to continue our collaborative efforts well into the future!

 

Oct

9

Volunteer Opportunity in Boston!

By ewbexec

Looking to get involved in EWB-BU and make a change in the Boston Community? Come volunteer at Community Servings this Friday from 1-4 pm!

Community Servings is a non-profit organization in Boston that provides food and nutrition for individuals and families dealing with chronic illnesses and disease. All meals are homemade and are free, and “send the message to those in greatest need that someone cares.” Volunteer tasks include preparing and packaging meals, delivering meals to clients, assisting with events, etc.

It’s a great way to spend a Friday afternoon and you’ll be helping many people in need in your own Boston Community. At EWB-BU, we focus a lot on helping communities help themselves (such as in Naluja), and we’d like to help out in our own community as well. We think Community Servings offers a great service to those in the Boston Community, and are excited to help out.

Contact us at ewbexec@bu.edu if you’d like to help us make a difference!

Sep

30

MCC 2012 Recap

By ewbexec

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken to you last but full of activity. Since our last blog post, we’ve had two meetings (with great turnout!) and taken 14 of the EWB-BU group to the 2012 Millennium Campus Conference (MCC) at Northeastern! It’s been great having such a large interest in our work and great attendance at our meetings. We appreciate that all you newcomers are taking the time out of your Sundays to spend time with the rest of the group and work towards a common goal. MCC 2012 (9/14-9/15) was a blast! We were able to take 14 of our members to attend the conference, which was chock-full of incredible people in the world of global development, such as:

  • Paul Farmer (Doctor, Founder of Partners in Health (PIH))
  • Leymah Gbowee (Liberian Peace Activist, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner)
  • Jeffrey Sachs (Director & Professor of Earth Institute at Columbia University, Economist)
  • Emilia Pires (Minister of Finance, Timor Leste)
  • Steve Radelet (Chief Economist, US AID)

… and many others! It was an eye-opening event, to be sure. There were approximately 1,200 students, among many other people, who attended the event from different groups, different states, and even different countries. In addition to hearing such illustrious personalities and world leaders speak (see above), we were able to listen to and participate in panel discussions and workshops, discussing issues such as “The Roadblocks to Providing Care” and ”Building Sustainable Projects on the Ground” to more practical strategies such as “Cross-Sector Collaboration” and “Community Partnerships.” We hope to share all these ideas with you, so keep posted. Attending the conference really made us realize that there are so many different aspects to consider and be cognizant of when working in global development. It’s definitely a very lofty goal, and we are more determined than ever to help the community of Naluja. Since not everyone was able to go, we’ll just leave you with some of the more memorable quotes from our time there:

  • “We are moving from the era of economic development to the era of sustainable development.” – Jeffrey Sachs
  • “Some say that we’re wasting our time on people in poverty. I’m here to say that they are wrong.” – Steve Radelet
  • “You can’t plan ahead for defeats, but you can build partnerships to help.” – Dr. Paul Farmer
  • “If you want to walk quickly, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.” – Maya Cohen
  • “[Poverty] can be ended… we have to choose to end it.” – Jeffrey Sachs
  • “It’s not the level of qualification you bring, but the passion and commitment you have to the people you work with.” – Leymah Gbowee
  • “Above all, people want opportunity.” – Emilia Pires

Thank you to those who have supported us in the past. If this conference has taught us anything, it’s that we have a long way to go.

If you are interested in what we do, contact us at ewbexec@bu.edu. We’re always looking for more people to join us on this journey!

Aug

29

Wrap-Up of Zambia and Looking Forward to Next Year

By ewbexec

Hello everyone!

Our travel team is back safely from Zambia and we’ll be hearing from them shortly for a more in-depth account of their time in Zambia. They had a pretty exciting time on their pre-assessment trip. They were able to visit the city of Lusaka, the districts of Choma and Kalomo, and the community of Naluja. They were also able to meet a lot of people during their travels including our NGO partners, the community members of Naluja, American doctors running their own successful hospital, and even a Zambian Parliament member! They’ve been very busy and the last two weeks have been exciting for our travel team, to say the least.

Our team did a lot of hard work in not only laying out the groundwork for a strong relationship with the Nalujan people, but also through the data collection they did for assessment of the needs of the community. The team was able to gather information on water, sanitation, solar energy, road maps, and cell phone signal. Additionally, the team was able to meet up with another community in the Kalomo area that has already been able to implement some solutions to the infrastructure problems Naluja faces. The travel team was able to do some data collection on how well the other community was able to implement these solutions and any problems they faced along the way; the hope is to use this community as a model, of sorts, for Naluja.

On a lighter note, the team were able to enjoy some other things in Zambia. They were able to try a Zambian food called nshima (made of cornmeal) and explore the Nalujan community and spend time with its occupants. During their stay in Naluja, our travel team all got Zambian names and some even got marriage proposals! Our team was also able to visit Victoria Falls and two of the team went bungee jumping over the falls – it was definitely an exciting and memorable experience for them.

We’ll have more information for you as soon as we are updated more thoroughly by our travelers. Until then, let’s look to the future.

We’re been working towards this pre-assessment trip for a long time, and now that it’s done, we should definitely take the time to celebrate! However, we must also remember that we’ve now got a lot of valuable information about the Naluja community and we must put it to good use. All the information the travel team was able to get about Naluja can be used to determine which projects would be the best to implement in Naluja and help in improving the quality of life for the members there. We must look to take the next, necessary steps toward implementation.

Much of this will be taking place over the next year! We have a lot of work to get done now that the information has been obtained, and we welcome every one of our existing and new members at EWB-BU to help us with our program in Naluja. We have a lot of exciting events to help us along the way, including our annual Silent Auction, the upcoming Millenium Campus Conference, the EWB Regional Conference, and our Spring Film Festival with the EWB Boston Professional Chapter, to name a few.

We’re really excited about having completed this first step with a pre-assessment trip. It’ll enable us to go on implementation trips in the future and truly become a part of the change in the Naluja community. Join EWB-BU and become a part of the change!

Aug

15

Traveling to Zambia

By ewbexec

Hello everyone!

Our travel team has left for Zambia!

EWB-BU members Grace Wang, Declan Bowman, and Nathanael Lee, in addition to mentor Mohammed Jafri of the Boston Professional Chapter, left for our pre-assessment trip on August 13. They plan to come back on the 27th.

During the two weeks our team is in Zambia, there is a lot to get done! This is a pre-assessment trip, so our team will be looking to get a better understanding of Naluja, the community where our program has opened, and of its people. By sending our members to Zambia, we hope to pinpoint some of the problems the Naluja community is experiencing and start brainstorming projects that might be able to appease these needs.

One of the ways we’ll be collecting data is through a Baseline Health Assessment, with which we’ll try to explore the health-related challenges the community faces. Our team will be collecting information about the Naluja community through interviews with the residents and their own observations. We’ll also be using data already compiled by Measure DHS and the Central Statistical Office of Zambia. If you’d like to take a look, check out the following links:

By the end, we hope to get a better sense about the needs of the community so we can figure out to best address them.

Check back on our blog soon for more updates about what we’re doing in Naluja, Zambia!

We’re really excited to be able to send members of EWB-BU to Zambia! The entire group has been working towards this goal for a very long time, so it’s very exciting to see all the hard work come to fruition. Thank you to our members for helping us reach this point! We wish our travel team the best of luck in Zambia!