A Day with the Founder

Dr. Bernard Amadei, the founder of Engineers Without Borders and a professor in Civil Department at University of Colorado at Boulder, was invited as Rose-Hulman’s Leadership Advancement Program guest speaker to present his experience and vision as a global engineering leader on March 18, 2014. It was his first time visiting our campus.

Born and raised in Roubaix, northern France, he obtained his bachelor degree in applied geology in France, a master degree in geological engineering in 1979 from the University of Toronto, and a phD in civil engineering in 1982 from University of California at Berkeley.  Following his passion on sustainability and international development, he founded Engineers Without Borders-USA and co-founded Engineers Without Borders –International and guides these organizations with the mission to partner with underprivileged communities to improve their quality of life by implementing engineering projects while training globally responsible engineering students and professionals who practice engineering as “compassion in action” and “vehicles for peace”. Two years ago, because of his instrumental work in international development, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed Dr. Amadei as one the three science envoys to facilitate communications between U.S. with other countries in addressing global challenges.

Dr. Amadei had a busy schedule on his day at Rose-Hulman from 8am to 9pm. He met several groups of professors who are on Rose-Hulman’s Grand Challenge Committee to discuss the needs to prepare Rose-Hulman students for global challenges and the opportunities to initiate more courses that integrate engineering with global societal perspectives. He also devoted a large portion of his day meeting with students and advisors from EWB-Rose-Hulman chapter. Dr. Amadei shared various invaluable ideas on how to expand civil department and how to take advantage of existing opportunities for engineering project-related grants. For example, one of programs that allocate a handsome amount of grant each year is National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), which provides nascent student start-ups and innovations with early stage funding and helps with business strategy development, mentoring, and investment. NCIIA also make funding available for courses and programs in tech entrepreneurship and education training at colleges.

In the afternoon, two EWB officers (Amanda and Ally) presented our chapter’s past and ongoing projects in theDominican Republic and Ghana as well as highlighted our chapter’s campus involvements. Dr. Amadei gave positive comments on our chapter’s effort and accomplishment and he said he wish he could have visited our campus and chapter earlier. Following the presentation, 8 EWB officers and members attended a dinner with Dr. Amadei.

A total of more than 100 students, faculty, staff, and local Terre Haute residents were drawn to Dr. Amadei’s presentation at Khan Room at 7pm. He started his presentation with a story that inspired him to embark Engineers Without Borders-USA. In 2001, after talking to a group of construction workers from Belize, who at the time were building his new house at Boulder, Colorado, Dr. Amadei visited a small village in San Pablo, Belize. He met an 8-year-old girl who could not attend school, because she was assigned by her parents to walk several miles to fetch water every day. It was Dr. Amadei’s first exposure to poverty and he realized the critical issue there was how to utilize energy to transport water. He brought the issue back to University of Colorado and challenged both his undergraduate and graduate students to design feasible solutions. The students designed and installed pipes in the village half year later. From then, Dr. Amadei expanded his work in third-world countries, as he humorously said, “I’m a tenured professor and I’m tired of grading reports.” He established Engineers Without Borders-USA and cofounded Engineers Without Borders – International in 2002. Since EWB-USA’s incorporation, it has grown to more than 300 chapters and over 13,000 passionate members whose projects span 47 countries on 5 continents and have impacted more than 2.5 million lives across the globe.

He pointed out that “engineering for the other 90%” of the population can be done well by doing good. He used another example of working on helping local people in harnessing fuels in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2002, because Taliban tried to control areas by removing trees which were the essential fuels for the winter. Despite the chaos in Afghanistan after the 9-11, Dr. Amadei’s team successfully designed and implemented tools to compress fecal matters as burning fuels, suiting different groups of users such as children and handicapped people.

In addition to providing solutions to bridge the gaps in infrastructure and technology between the first and third-world countries, Dr. Amadei also foresaw that the “engineering for the other 90%” would be the focus of the new generation of engineers. He said, “people are the real wealth of a nation and there are exceedingly fast-growing markets in the third-world countries.” He encouraged students in STEM fields to design and implement technologies that have important meanings, because 4 to 5 billion customers across the world are waiting for affordable, accessible, available, sustainable, scalable, and reliable products and solutions.

-Article written by Jung Fang

GlobalEngineeringBlog

Global Engineering: A Holistic Approach

Dr. Annette Berndt, an English professor from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, visited Rose-Hulman on Friday, March 14th, to present her new interdisciplinary curriculum inspired by the inroads of engineering education that the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter at UBC has paved. EWB-UBC chapter took different approaches to the communities in the global south than EWB at Rose-Hulman. They seek overseas connections in Africa by providing plans for small local businesses and occasionally sending short-term volunteers to Africa to support ventures in researching, testing, or expanding their projects, whereas EWB-RHIT focuses on designing and directly implementing sanitation projects.

Prior to her presentation, three current and past executive members (Jung, Marcel, and Nate) of EWB-RHIT gave her a campus tour and shared their appreciation of the valuable learning experience gained through participation in EWB and the unique learning environment provided by Rose-Hulman. She was very amazed by the small class sizes at Rose-Hulman, as she commented that she could hardly ever see classes with 35 students or less.

During her presentation, she explored various concepts and changing definitions of “global engineering” against a backdrop of professional Codes of Ethics, accreditation criteria, and teaching theories, which have conveyed traditional bracketing of the narrowly technical domain from its social contexts. She emphasized the idea of the global/holistic engineer, as she quoted “the engineer of the future applies scientific analysis and holistic synthesis to develop sustainable solutions that integrate social, environmental, cultural, and economic systems” from Dr. Amadei, the founder of EWB-USA. To illustrate her theory on global and holistic engineering, she designed a course known as Applied Science 263: Technology and Development, which evolved from an EWB-UBC seminar back in 2001.

The course was aimed at tackling sociotechnical problems occurring in several underdeveloped regions in India. For example, an artisanal community in India was facing challenges including the insufficient use of indigo dyes and low efficiency of kilns used to handcraft bells. A variety of majors including music, international relations, economics, fine arts, and engineering joined the effort to build a small business model for the community and draft a kiln design that was eventually approved by a technical committee of professors in UBC.

Chris Prychon, a 2011 mechanical engineering major from UBC, commented, “This course lets you take a step back and remind yourself why you became an engineer.”

The article on Global Engineering and course descriptions can be found at Global Engineer [pdf]

-Article written by Jung Fang

Rose-Hulman EWB Members Learn from the Pros

Roger Ward, a member and project leader of the EWB Professional Chapter in Indianapolis, visited Rose-Hulman on Wednesday, November 6th to present his team’s clean water project in Kenya. Himself a Rose-Hulman graduate, Mr. Ward described how the project has progressed from the initial assessment trip in 2011 to the successful implementations in 2012 and 2013. His project focuses on ensuring sustainable clean water in the rural town of Bungoma, located in the highlands of western Kenya. A purification method known as a spring box was implemented to achieve this goal. Spring boxes capture the water from natural springs and filter it through several layers, including rough rock. The water can then be dispensed from an opening high enough for villagers to place their jugs underneath.

Throughout the presentation, Mr. Ward emphasized several guiding principles of Engineers Without Borders, including the importance of involving the community in the process, providing a solution that they are willing to use, and using locally available materials to work towards long-term improvement. To involve the community, his team met with community leaders to develop a memo of understanding. In this agreement, the community committed to help construct and routinely maintain the spring boxes in return for the EWB team’s pledge to oversee, train workers for, and fund the initial implementation. The team also made sure that the community would use the spring boxes, because many previous attempts by various organizations to provide a clean water supply failed due to a lack of maintenance, lack of funding, or lack of community acceptance. As a result, the team saw many abandoned pumps, water towers, and pieces of ruined equipment lying around the countryside. To minimize the cost and dependency on imported goods of their solution, the team used locally purchased bricks and other local supplies.

After the team’s successful implementation trips in January 2012 and 2013, the community reports a decrease in illnesses and water sampling indicates a 95% decrease in bacteria with the spring box filtration. Each spring box required two and a half days of labor and about $500 for materials, and the local workers quickly learned how to construct them. Overall, Mr. Ward’s presentation served as an inspiration for our EWB chapter; his team’s spring box project demonstrates how we can overcome many constraints to improve the quality of life of the poor around the world.

Wheelchair ramp pictures

EWB-RHIT Reaches Out to Local Community

Beginning in spring 2013, we are taking on local outreach projects through the Servants At Work (SAWs) ministry. These projects identify the need among people with disabilities for wheelchair ramps, since many receive wheelchairs through their healthcare but are left without easy access to their homes. Partnering with SAWs, we build wheelchair ramps to provide these people with improved mobility. SAWs provides the building materials and blueprints for each ramp, and we provide the construction labor. We have already assembled several ramps and plan to continue volunteering for projects as new needs arise.