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Fort Lewis College faculty and students use skills to help around the world

FLC Engineers Without Borders faculty and students spent several weeks living in an Ecuadorian community.

FLC Engineers Without Borders faculty and students spent several weeks living in an Ecuadorian community.

This year, a group of Fort Lewis College students and their faculty mentors changed the world. A little bit, anyway.

In May, a group of 18 students and five professors traveled to Laos, where over 24 days they completed a water supply system for a remote village. In July and August, another group of 13 students and six professors visited Ecuador to develop two clean water sources and delivery systems.

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.

"EWB has provided a fantastic opportunity for me to utilize my knowledge from the classroom and apply it to the real world," explains Senior Engineering-Physics major Max Bohana, from Englewood, Colorado. "The experience opened my eyes even further to the unity of our world. The communities we work in with Laos are not so different from the communities in Ecuador, and all suffer the lack of access to clean water."

FLC Engineers Without Borders is an all-volunteer effort. The students spend the school year prior to the trip planning their projects, then the chapter raises all of the funds needed to carry out the construction, including the price of materials. Last summer's groups worked in the Quechua communities in the region of Chimborazo, in the Andes of central Ecuador, and in Laos' Plain of Jars.

"Engineers Without Borders is not a class," says Physics & Engineering professor Laurie Williams. Williams, along with Physics & Engineering professor Don May and four community professionals, 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."

Rachel Medina, a Junior double major in Geology and Engineering, from Longmont, Colorado, agrees. "This was a life changing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life," says Medina, who worked on the project in Laos this summer. "Not only are you helping them how to live healthier and better, but you are also learning even more from them."

Despite its title, Williams also 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."

Learn more about Fort Lewis College Engineers Without Borders here.

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