Story in the School of Engineering
Chris Pitt '05
Civil engineering major puts his education to work in the world through volunteer efforts with Engineers Without Borders.
Chris Pitt believes that politicians and philanthropists attract a lot of attention for making public statements about how the world should be made more just and equitable, but engineers are the people that really make it happen.
Through initiatives like EngineersWithout Borders.
Pitt first became involved with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) in late 2006 when he learned about some of the projects that the San Francisco Professional Chapter (EWB-SFP) was engaged in.
"I was inspired by the commitment these volunteer engineers showed and the great impact their work had in developing communities," syas Pitt. "I was looking for a good avenue to provide service to the world outside of my work, and I realized that by utilizing my specialized engineering knowledge and experience I could contribute something that not many people can offer."
Pitt connected with a group of professional EWB members in the San Jose Area, known as the EWB-SFP South Bay Annex, and has since worked on several bridge replacement and water supply projects located in Honduras.
"I had the opportunity to travel to the San Pedro Sula area of Honduras in November 2008 on an assessment trip with one of my EWB colleagues," relates Pitt. "We stayed in the community and got to know many excellent people while working to identify and plan appropriate projects that the South Bay Annex of EWB-SFP could help the community accomplish."
According to Pitt, these bridge and water supply projects are ongoing and are in various degrees of implementation.
A larger travel team visited the community in May-July of 2009 and accomplished a great deal, and plans are moving forward for aother trip in 2011.
"My work with EWB has involved working with our structures team to prepare designs for the bridge replacements, coordinating events, hosting meetings, and interfacing with our partners on the projects," says Pitt.
So, what role did Santa Clara play in his decision to get involved with EWB?
"My senior design project inspired me to use my engineering education as a tool to do service," says Pitt. The project involved evaluating the seismic performance and overall sustainability of residential mixto structures in El Salvador. Working on a team with Dr. Mark Aschheim and two other students, John Harlander, and Shannon Flannagan, Pitt collaborated with university teams in Mexico and Central America.
"It was an incredibly challenging project, but it was extraordinarily rewarding to know that our work had a social benefit," he says.
More recently, Pitt has worked with members of the Santa Clara University EWB Student Chapter in identifying and beginning several new projects in Honduras.
"It has been wonderful working with the students to get these projects going, and I’m very excited to see them moving forward," he says. "The interesting thing about EWB projects is that while we engineers tend to gravitate to the technical problems, those usually end up being the easiest to solve. The greatest challenges generally involve social and logistical issues, which force us to stretch ourselves."
Pitt believes that engineers hold a critical role in society, requiring good judgment, strong ethics, and real commitment.
"The tools we possess empower us to make a huge difference in the quality of life of others," he says. "I feel like SCU did a great job of highlighting the importance of engineering to me, and that has made all the difference in my professional life and in my volunteer work."
And he looks forward to staying involved with current and future SCU engineers as they seek to do their part in making this world a better place.