Engineering With A Mission in Practice
SCU’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a student-led chapter of Engineers Without Borders, USA. Members of EWB aim to “solve pressing challenges in developing communities through sustainable and user-centric solutions.” For the past eight years, EWB-SCU has partnered with PICO Rwanda, an NGO that supports community organizing, supporting members of the Nyange, Rwanda community as they work to lift themselves out of poverty. Each summer, a student team travels to Rwanda for assessment, data collection, and/or project implementation. During the 2019 trip to Rwanda, EWB-SCU developed a partnership with EWB Rwanda to gain professional and local expertise as the SCU students took on their most ambitious project to supply clean water to the community.
With the help of PICO-Rwanda, a group of families (currently fifteen) in Nyange developed a cooperative with the goal of working together to improve their lives. Partnering with an organized group was attractive to EWB-SCU. The community is located on hilly terrain with very steep slopes. The first major need identified was transporting water and heavy clay for making tiles and bricks in this environment. The students designed and successfully implemented two electric carts to help locals transport clay and water up the steep hills more easily. The current project aims to implement a water supply and filtration system that will provide the surrounding community in Nyange, Rwanda, with a sustainable source of clean drinking water and to support the cooperative’s end goal of selling water and constructing bathrooms as a new source of income.
This summer, the SCU team was approved to travel to Rwanda after working remotely for the past couple of years due to the pandemic and shelter-in-place restrictions. The objective of this year’s trip was to pump water from a borehole encased in a valley below the main cooperative building to a filter house. The EWB 2022 Travel Team consisted of students Mia Gabriele '23 (Bioengineering), Aaron Juan '23, and Katie Ott '25 (both Mechanical Engineering) and were accompanied by EWB alumni and three-time past traveler Jon Borst '19 (Mechanical Engineering) and former civil engineering lab manager Brent Woodcock. While only a select few students travel annually, thirty or more EWB members are actively working on these projects.
Because the team only had twelve days to travel, gather materials, and implement, they had to manage their time efficiently. To stay on track, they created a timeline and documented their daily progress to ensure they made the most impact possible within the allotted time. During the team's efforts to implement the water supply and filtration system, they faced challenges, including loss of time due to rapid weather changes and miscommunication due to language barriers that called for some last-minute changes to their plans. However, through adversity, and with the help of local technical students and community members, the team successfully implemented the water pumping and storage system and provided a community of more than 200 with a sustainable source of drinking water. Currently, the community is drinking water from an artesian spring without filtration. Still, the team is having the water tested to ensure that a filtration system is unnecessary. The team plans to return to Rwanda next year to assess the system's functionality.
SCU’s EWB relies heavily on donations to help make these projects come to fruition. Stay tuned for Day of Giving 2023 if you wish to support and donate.