Engineers Without Borders at Boston University

Young engineers making their contribution to change

Jun

10

Happy 10th Anniversary!

By ewbexec

ewb

As of Wednesday, June 6th, EWB has had its 10th birthday! Ten years of commitment to the application of engineering principles to raise the living standards of the world’s poorest.

Today is a great day to remember how far this group has come. The dedication of all of the EWB members has resulted in the betterment of 2.3 millions lives in 48 countries! Many lives have been improved as a result of EWB’s dedication. It’s great to say that the existence of this group and the commitment of these members has actually made a visible impact.

Today should also be a day to look at the present and the future, and to answer the questions that arise. What are we working on right now? How can these projects and implementations be made better? In what other ways can we help to make a difference? What are our plans from the future? Where do we go from here? Being complacent is not an option. Already, this group has come so far. This needs to continue so that we can continue to make an impact.

Happy 10th Anniversary to EWB!

May

27

MCC 2012 – Keynote Speaker Dr. Jeffrey Sachs

By ewbexec

mcclogoWe hope everyone’s vacations are going well and everyone has been able to relax on this much needed break!

Looking to the future, the 2012 Millennium Campus Conference (MCC) is coming up in September. It will be held at Northeastern University on Septermber 14-15, 2012. The MCC is held as part of a greater effort by students across many universities to end extreme poverty as well as to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set forth in 2000.

Every conference has a keynote speaker. Speakers of past years have included: K’naan (poet, singer); John Legend (singer, Show Me Campaign); Dr. Paul Farmer (Partners in Health); and Adam Braun (Pencils of Promise), among many other notables. This year’s speaker has been announced as Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.

Dr. Sachs has been involved with MCC for many years on the Board of Advisors. jsachsAdditionally, he is the director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and a Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. In addition to these impressive accomplishments, Dr. Sachs has been heavily involved with the fight against extreme poverty, having served as advisor to many governments with regard to economic strategy and healthcare in developing countries, and is considered the world’s leading expert on economic development. Having worked with such people and organizations as Pope John Paul II, the African Union, the World Health Organization, Polish Financial Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Dr. Sachs has become a very important and influential person. Indeed, he was recognized as such, being listed twice in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential World Leaders.

With such an impressive resume and inexhaustible drive to help ameliorate conditions in today’s developing countries, Dr. Sachs is indeed a very welcome guest at this year’s Millennium Campus Conference! It will be an interesting and enlightening experience to listen to him speak, based on his extraordinary knowledge and previous direct experiences in the developing world, and hear his views on the world and how each of us can contribute. Needless to say, we’re really looking forward to MCC 2012!

The video below details Dr. Sachs’ ideas regarding technology and connectivity and how the two can help to springboard the developing world forward. With the advent of cheaper technology, the entire world becomes accessible with just the click of a button, and within the comfort of people’s homes. Even in some of the most rural areas, its inhabitants are able to connect to the outside world through the use of a simple mobile telephone. Mobile telecom is extraordinarily cheap in developing countries, and has helped many nations to advance in that respect. This idea of communication with the outside world and the flow of information has enormous consequences.

Enter EWB BU. This is one of the things we’ve been working toward with our antenna project to extradite the results of Dried Blood Spot (DBS) tests for HIV using mobile phones and Short Message Service (SMS). We’ve definitely taken Dr. Sachs’ example as inspiration and hope that our trip to Zambia this summer will help us forward in our project and one step closer to implementation!

Apr

21

Live Below the Line

By ewbexec

Live Below the LineHere’s what you need to know about the Live Below the Line Challenge:

  • You have 5 days – March 7th to March 11th.
  • You have $1.50 per day to feed yourself.

Ready? Go.

Join the EWB-BU team this year as we try to Live Below the Line! 1.4 billion of the world’s population lives on less that $1.25 per day, in extreme poverty. Many people are suffering as a result and should not be allowed to continue. That’s where Live Below the Line comes in.

Live Below the Line is a fundraising campaign to raise awareness of the difficulties people face when living in extreme poverty, when sustenance is hard to come by. This is done by challenging people in developed countries to live under the same conditions (eating less than $1.25 worth of food per day).

“To really tackle extreme poverty, we’ve got to try to understand it – and what better way than by spending just a few days living below the poverty line.” We often hear that most of the world lives in unimaginably difficult conditions, but this information is not realized until it has been experienced. It’s easy to sympathize, but it’s harder to empathize. And only when that empathy has been realized can one truly just begin to grasp the severity of the problems that 1.4 billion of the world’s population have to contend with.

If you’re interested in joining, please do! There needs to be greater awareness and movement toward the eradication of extreme poverty around the world. Click on the second link to sign up for the EWB-BU team! For more information, click on any of the following links:

Good luck with the challenge, everybody!

Mar

22

World Water Day

By ewbexec

water1Today is World Water Day! It is important to take a moment today to recognize the great need in this world for water. In countries such as the US, access to clean drinking water is not a problem. However, it can be one of the main concerns for survival in less fortunate countries. Life without easy access to water is difficult one because of the many uses it has in our everyday lives. Bathing, cooking, cleaning – water is necessary for all of these things, among many others. Hygiene and good sustenance is difficult to obtain. We depend heavily on water directly and indirectly (e.g. its use in the manufacture of many of the products we use) for many things. For more information about how we depend on water, click on the following link: http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Topics/Development/Water-Water-Hardly-Everywhere.

Access to clean drinking water is not readily available in poorer countries due to a variety of reasons, especially in rural areas. In Zambia, for example, only about 60% of the population has access to an improved water supply (http://www.nwasco.org.zm/pdfs/sectorreport2010-11.pdf). The situation is complicated by seasonal changes. While a long-term solution is needed, obviously, as a solution to this problem, there have been many simple technologies that have been implemented in the meantime in an effort to get better access to clean water, such as:

There are many available methods to help get easier access to clean drinking water. Why, then, is it still a problem? Water is a necessity for survival; it is a very basic need. It’s a shame that even though the means to obtain clean water are available, not everyone is able to gain access. Learn more about the problem and ways you can help at: http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/.

The BU Chapter of Engineers Without Borders is looking into the possible implementation a water filtration system in Zambia this year, and we’re glad for World Water Day because it has certainly opened our eyes to the need for water in the world. Please let us know if you’d like to become involved in our project!

Mar

20

Engineering in a Greater Context

By ewbexec

zaman-new-profile-picHello everyone! Hopefully everyone has had a lovely spring break and are looking forward to the next couple of months before summer vacation.

In recent news, check out the blog posts of Professor Muhammad Zaman, advisor to our BU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, on The Huffington Post! With titles such as “Make Development Part of the Equation” and “Engineering a Healthy Tomorrow for the Poorest Billions,” Zaman looks at the greater context of engineering in today’s world and the impact it can have on the lives of billions in the future. It’s incredible, he says, that engineering has led to such technological innovations and accomplishments already, such as “sending the man on the moon and building bridges and buildings that defy imagination.” Hopefully, continued imagination and creativity and hard work on the part of global engineers can continue this trend, with the focus of using engineering to better the lives of those in the poorest countries. While in recent years engineering programs have seen a decline in the number of applicants and interested individuals, this field has enormous implications for the future.

With the world’s population over 7 billion people and growing at an exponential rate (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/7-billion), efforts must be made so that the poorest regions in the world are not held back, or regress, due to a disparity in resources and innovation and education, but instead are encouraged to progress and create the foundation for a healthy and sustainable future by investing in education and innovation. It is imperative that the conditions today in the poorest countries – including a lack of proper infrastructure, inadequate health services, etc. – not set the tone for the future. As Zaman says, “gone are the days when we accepted disease, suffering and poverty as the common lot of the poor.” It is no longer acceptable to simply sit back on our laurels when there are issues that can be acted upon and situations that need to be changed. It’s not an option to let such suffering continue. And engineers play a big part in ensuring that this idea of growth and progress, even in the poorest of countries, come to fruition in the future. Ultimately, everyone benefits from this investment in the future. “The creation of new knowledge and new paradigms to address the global problems will inevitable lead to discovery of new, cheaper and robust design criteria that will have an impact on all societies, including ours, here in the US.”

And this is something that the BU chapter of Engineers Without Borders is working on. We hope that our project in Zambia, in partnership with the Center for Global Health and Development (CGHD) and the Zambia Center for Applied Health Research and Development (ZCAHRD), will help to contribute toward alleviating the current situation with HIV test results. For more information on our project, click the following link: http://people.bu.edu/ewbexec/Projects.html.

To read Professor Zaman’s blog posts, click the following link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/muhammad-h-zaman

Feb

21

New EWB-BU Website!

By ewbexec

EWB-BU Logo

5… 4… 3… 2… 1… We’re Live!

Check out our new website for the EWB-BU Student Chapter! It’s got the most recent information on our events and projects, such as our work with CGHD (Center for Global Health and Development) and the Zambia Center for Applied Health Research and Development (ZCAHRD) in addition to details about our upcoming Marshmallow Challenge for E-Week!

New Website Picture

On our new website, you can get updates from our Facebook page, this blog, among many other things. We’ve also set up a donation link! Looking to get involved with EWB-BU? Look into our Contact Information and shoot us an e-mail! We’ll be looking to add to the site a lot more in the future, so be sure to give us your feedback! Our brand new website, courtesy of our Webmaster Alan Pacheco, can be used in the future, with our Facebook page and our blog, to get information about our group. Be sure to stop by!

Link to our NEW website: http://people.bu.edu/ewbexec/

Feb

12

E-Week 2012

By ewbexec

marshmellow2This year, the Boston University chapter of EWB has teamed up with ENG GOV 2015 to bring you the Marshmellow Challenge! The objective is the make the tallest tower using just spaghetti noodles, tape, and a marshmellow. E-week is a tradition that was brought about in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers to highlight the important contributions engineers make to society. This year’s E-Week, which runs from Tuesday, February 21st to Friday, March 2nd, features a host of excitingevents such as the Egg Drop Contest, the K’Nex Roller Coaster Design Contest, a Wii Tournament, and the Marshmellow Challenge!

marshmellow

We’ll also be accepting orders for our new EWB T-shirts! Come by and place an order and drop by for some engineering fun!

The Marshmellow Challenge is on Thursday, February 23rd at 5 pm – 6:30 pm in CAS B14. We’re looking forward to seeing you all there!

Additional details about the events can be found at:

http://www.bu.edu/eng/current-students/annual-events/eweek/

Feb

3

Project Mailbox

By ewbexec

Project Mailbox We’ve been approved by Project Mailbox for a February fundraiser! As a “charity for other charities”, Project Mailbox is a new organization that was founded on Boston University’s campus. Each month it helps raise both awareness and funds for different non-profits. Luckily for us, we’re partnering with them for this month! If you’re wandering down Comm Ave, you’ll notice a red and white mailbox standing by Warren Towers that’s right outside of University Grill at 712 Commonwealth Avenue. You can drop in change, cash, or checks to support our work in Zambia! So if you find yourself jangling with spareProject mailbox-mailbox coinage in your pockets, swing by the mailbox and drop it in! Every bit helps, and we are so excited to see the small acts of generosity total up as we roll into March. You can also donate online directly to our chapter here (just make sure you select “Boston University Chapter” under the “Allocate your funds” section!)

So, before you toss your change onto your dresser where it’ll be lost in the chaos of your room, think about swinging by 712 Comm Ave to help out the Naluja community in Zambia.

Jan

20

Winter Break update

By ewbexec

Here at EWB-Boston University, we’ve been hard at work adding new materials to help train our future officers, write grant proposals, and assemble records of our research. We’re getting geared up to start another semester, and our first general meeting will be in two days on Sunday, January 22 at 12:30 pm in CAS 204A. We’ll be discussing our next steps with funding, travel, and elections. We’re most excited for elections!

We’re hosting our elections for the 2012-13 school year on Sunday, January 29 and we’ll start our transition program right after our candidates hash it out with some inspired speeches! From discussions with our MCN partners and other EWB chapters, leadership transition is one of the must critical and difficult pieces of being a successful student organization. Transferring knowledge and skills is a mix of resources, mentorship, and practice. Some of the documents we’ve created to help our new officers discuss everything from “How to Run a Meeting” to “How to Silent Auction”.

Another big piece of our spring semester plans include formally introducing our technical advisors to our current research on cell phone signal amplification. Part of this will be aided by the records we’ve been generating over the break, and face-to-face discussion amongst our officers and research teams. Hopefully, the most important lessons learned will be highlighted and explored further as we invite our advisors’ expertise into the conversation.

Jan

3

EWB 501-New Programs

By ewbexec

At Boston University, we’ve been busily working on getting our program approved in Zambia, and were fortunate enough to overcome a setback when the EWB Assessment Review Committee (ARC) initially rejected our 501-New Program Application. This is not unusual, according to a contact in the EWB-Boston Professional Chapter. However, it was more than difficult to see months of hard work rejected.

Thankfully, we were able to talk to Dave Sacco, an ARC and TAC (Technical Advisory Committee) reviewer. He offered some great insight into how to successfully appeal and apply for our Program in Zambia. Thanks to Dave’s help, we were approved to open our program! Here are some of the things we learned from his short seminar:

A program is a chapter’s overarching commitment to collaboration between the chapter and community for the minimum 5 years required by EWB-USA. In comparison, a project is a small piece within a program. Projects are implemented to address the needs identified by the community.

While the distinction between these two things is relatively fine, it’s important to recognize their unique identity. There may be many projects you could implement that pertain to the program’s theme. In our case, we’re looking to focus on community health. As a part of this program, we could implement a water filtration project, a sanitation project, or the cell phone amplification project we’ve been looking at. Allowing for this type of flexibility allows EWB chapters to approach the needs of the community holistically.

When filling out your initial New Program application, you shouldn’t have all the answers or solutions. This is a red flag for ARC reviewers that you have too many preconceptions as you enter into this program.

While it can be difficult to respond to the questions the 501 may ask because it seems to want explicit answers or details, Mr. Sacco stated that ambiguity should be expected during these first steps. You haven’t, in theory, been on the ground and met your community face-to-face, yet. If anything, you may have some prospective leads on projects, but these projects cannot be successfully implemented or approved until you have gathered primary evidence and data about what the community needs and the best way to sustainably implement a solution.

In our past program in Peru, we experienced a great example of this. The community, during initial contact, discussed a desire for electricity. Based on the information our chapter had received, it seemed like solar panels would fit their needs. However, on the assessment trip, it became clear that while they could benefit from electricity, they were dying from contaminated water. From this, a new plan of action was charted to find a way to purify their water sources. Only once we had been on-site were we able to obtain a complete picture of what our community was dealing with and how to prioritize potential projects.

Make sure your community and partnering NGO are clear on who owns the projects and who ought to be the primary beneficiaries.

Although it may seem obvious, Dave Sacco reminded the seminar attendees to be clear during your discussion with partner NGOs, the government, and community leaders that your purpose as an EWB chapter is to collaboratively implement projects that address the needs the community faces. This means that the primary motivation for your work is always the community–not the NGO, not the government–the community. If this is not obvious in from your New Program application, it will not be approved by EWB.

Now that the New Year has just begun, EWB-USA will be implementing a new system to open New Programs. Now, the community or partner NGO must submit the 501 and the EWB chapter must adopt it by filling out a different form, the 502. By doing this, EWB-USA hopes to engage communities and NGOs that are invested in collaboration and actively seeking solutions. According to Dave Sacco, it seemed that EWB chapters have struggled in the past to successfully screen communities that would successfully work with the chapter. By changing the New Program application structure, hopefully, more chapters will enjoy successful and fulfilling programs with partnering communities.