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Our Impact on Changing Statistics

By ewbexec

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)

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.

 Works Cited

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.




A Collaborative Global Effort: “One World One People”

By ewbexec

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.




“Don’t Confuse Motion with Progress” -Paul Ellingstad, Director of Global Health at HP’s Office of Global Social Innovation

By ewbexec

Paul Ellingstad, Director of Global Health at HP's Office of Global Social Innovation "Don't Confuse Motion with Progress" -Paul Ellingstad

If you've read our last post featuring Jason Russell of Invisible Children, you know he urged us to action and to take a chance by being a little crazy and doing what it takes right now to face the largest issues facing our generation, today.

In contrast, Paul Ellingstad from HP's Office of Global Social Innovation asked us for patience. He agreed that critical action needed to be taken now in order to begin turning the tide on the fight against extreme poverty. However, "lasting change takes time," he said. If it doesn't stick, then what's the point? All you're left with is a whole lot of wasted energy and effort. Be deliberate. We can't accept the feeling of movement as a marker of progress. We must always check ourselves by asking the hard questions: Is this valuable? Is this effective? Is this efficient?

"We must strive to live by the 'Rules of the Garage'" -Paul Ellingstad

HP Rules of the GarageAt the end of his presentation, Ellingstad pulled up a slide of the HP "Rules of the Garage". These concise 12 rules are the foundation of the HP philosophy. Ellingstad left them with us as a reminder that the most basic truths found in the most mundane of circumstances can be used to build an empire. Stay true to the things you've learned and be honest about what you can accomplish. And always work like you're still in your garage just trying your best to build something new.



Millenium Campus Conference Series

By ewbexec

MCC 2011This past weekend, 10 of our wonderful members and officers attended theMillennium Campus Conference (MCC) across the river at Harvard. MCC is an annual conference put on by the Millennium Campus Network--an awesome organization dedicated to connecting student groups across the nation in the quest to ending extreme poverty and accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals.

It was an incredible event and we give a huge thank you to the team of volunteers, staff, and students who helped organize and run the event. In particular, Nicole Theobold deserves a standing ovation for sending out emails like a mad woman and keeping everyone on track.

EWB-BU at MCC 2011While the weekend was extremely busy, we got to hear from some truly incredible people and learned a lot from the keynote speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders. In order to spread the wealth of new knowledge and inspiration, we're starting a series on our experience and take aways from the MCC.

We hope you'll enjoy being exposed to some new non profits and hearing some words of wisdom. So stay tuned and check back for the first feature!



The Story of Stuff

By Paolo Belfiore

The world needs a paradigm shift in how things are made and how frequently things are consumed. In a consumerist society like ours and many more in the western world we must step up for ourselves and spread this message.

Cynicism can only delay the time it takes one to realize the problem and will lengthen one's exposure to harmful, avoidable, yet ignored discharge created by the same products one buys.
You can find much more at

Here's the link to the video:




New Device Lets Plants Talk………….by Willie D. Jones

By Paolo Belfiore

First Published May 2009 by IEEE at

Smart sensors let crops text-message growers for more water

4 May 2009—Although technology has benefited agriculture in a number of ways, there are some things that growers still do the old-fashioned way. Among them is putting their hands and other measuring devices in the dirt and judging, based on how moist the soil is, whether their crops need water and how much should be added.

But AgriHouse, an agricultural technology firm based in Berthoud, Colo., says it is marketing a new device that can eliminate irrigation guesswork by letting plants call growers via cellular networks to indicate when they need a drink. To be specific, the plants send text messages alerting growers if their water uptake is too little, too much, or just right.

AgriHouse’s leaf sensor clips onto a plant’s leaf and uses proprietary algorithms to translate its relative level of turgidity into a reading of its internal moisture content. Developed by the University of Colorado at Boulder for NASA’s human space missions and licensed exclusively by AgriHouse, the new sensors are set to be sold in early 2010.

The AgriHouse field station, a small, weatherproof electrical enclosure to which several of the centimeter-long turgidity sensors are wired, collects readings every few minutes, then sends packets of data over the cellular network to a secure, password-protected Web portal every few hours. The system can be programmed to activate an irrigation system or send an alert whenever the plant’s water-deficit stress levels fall outside a preset range.

Though too little or too much water can diminish yields, growers tend to err on the side of giving crops more water than they need rather than risk letting the crops dry up and wilt. AgriHouse claims their sensors could significantly lower the world’s freshwater usage by preventing plants from getting too much water at the wrong time. Commercial agriculture in the United States accounts for more than 60 percent of the freshwater consumed annually. This equates to roughly 129 billion liters per day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. “A savings of just 10 percent would be dramatic,” says Richard Stoner, founder and president of AgriHouse. Asked how big a savings the leaf sensor would likely yield, he notes that the amount varies by species of plant but that an annual reduction of 5 to 10 centimeters per hectare in applied water use would be feasible for most irrigated row crops.

Stoner says that for each circular 53-hectare field irrigated by a center pivot (a large rotating sprinkler system), the water savings realized by growers who clip a few of the sensors to their plants “would be enough to supply as many as 50 U.S. homes annually.” Stoner notes that there are close to 200 000 center pivots in North America, “so that’s a lot of freshwater that can be diverted to other uses.” He adds that for each of these center pivots, two to four sensors will provide enough redundancy to make an accurate assessment of what is transpiring in the fields.

On the flip side of the water-conservation coin is reduced energy use. You wouldn’t imagine that farming, which brings to mind pictures of idyllic meadows and rustic barns, is an energy-intensive business. But the energy required for water delivery—to pump water from wells, lakes, or reservoirs and distribute it across fields dotted with thirsty plants—accounts for half of a grower’s input costs, says Stoner. Under a typical center-pivot irrigation system, he adds, the water conserved by using AgriHouse’s leaf sensors could save a grower as much as US $4000 in annual pumping costs while substantially reducing carbon emissions. As for the sensors, they draw a miserly 50 milliwatts from the field station, which contains a lithium-ion battery pack that can store enough energy to run from the time seeds are sown in spring to when the crops are harvested in the fall.



Third-World Stove Soot Is Target in Climate Fight

By Paolo Belfiore

Here's an article on reducing soot when cooking in an open-air cookstove while burning dung or wood. Low-soot stoves will also help reduce global-warming by reducing the amount of black carbon that's released in traditional cooking practices.

Third-World Stove Soot Is Target in Climate Fight

Something to keep in mind for our summer's kitchen hoods project in Chirimoto, Peru.