The 2010 Engineers Without Borders team worked with villagers on water systems in Guadalupe, Ecuador.
This year, a group of Fort Lewis students and their faculty mentors changed the world. A little bit, anyway.
For three weeks this May, 18 students and their faculty mentors volunteered their professional skills in Laos, building water system for two villages. The team constructed water collection systems, pipelines, and storage tanks in the Hmong villages of Ban Nakamphaeng and Ban Pakhom, in northwest Laos.
In July and August, another group of students, faculty, and local engineering advisors traveled to Ecuador, where they worked with the villagers on water systems in Marco Pamba and Gallo Rumi, indigenous Quechua communities located high in the Andes.
The students and professors are part of Engineers Without Borders, a nationwide organization of engineering and science professionals that volunteers its skills and labor to provide necessities such as clean water, power, sanitation, and education to impoverished areas around the world. The group has 12,000 members in 300 chapters, including 180 chapters on college campuses.
Since 2005, the Fort Lewis chapter has worked in Laos, Ecuador, and Thailand. The group is an all-volunteer effort, and it raises all of the funds needed to carry out its projects, including the price of construction materials. Students pay at least half of their own travel expenses, and community and professional members pay full price for their travel. Nobody is paid for their time, and students don't receive college credit for their effort.
Engineers Without Borders is recognized for their work by MAG, the Mines Advisory Group.
MAG is a humanitarian group that works to clear the remnants of wars in communities worldwide,
and is co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Learn more at [http://www.maginternational.org/usa].
In exchange, though, students get valuable real-world experience, personal challenge, and life-changing encounters with other cultures.
"Engineers Without Borders is not a class," says Physics & Engineering professor Laurie Williams. Williams, along with Physics & Engineering professor Don May led the students on this summer's infrastructure development work. "There is no midterm, no final grade, and students receive no credit. Yet I feel certain that it will be one of the best educational and personal endeavors in the life of the Fort Lewis students who participate. In some way, every student who has involved themselves in the program has been changed.""
Despite its title, Williams points out that Engineers Without Borders is not just for engineers. "Participating students come from across the campus, from Engineering to English to Education," she says. "Most of us do it because of the very real and immediate difference realized in the lives of the communities we have worked in."
Click here to learn more about Engineers Without Borders.