Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Get Involved! Engineers Without Borders

5:13 PM
Maseeh College student groups are crowdfunding now until October 31 to raise money for their projects. Learn more about Engineers Without Borders and their campaign at the College's Portland State of Mind Open House on Tuesday, October 21st from 2-5 pm or attend a meeting

Q: Please introduce yourself, your school standing and your position in the group!
A: Hello! My name is Kristin Travis and I am a post-bac junior in Mechanical Engineering. I am also the president of the EWB student chapter at PSU.

Q: What are you most looking forward to this year? 
A: I am most looking forward to our Ethiopia and Nicaragua trips and projects! If we succeed in reaching our fundraising goals, five of our students will be able to travel to Ethiopia to build composting latrines, and three to four other students will travel to Nicaragua to assess sites for a fish farm and a solar panel project!

This will be the first time in about two years that our chapter will be travelling abroad. We’re really working hard on expanding our chapter and getting a lot more projects going this year. There are a lot of great opportunities for students to get involved!

Q: What are some exciting new events or projects your group will be starting?
A: In the February of this year, we started working with the Portland Maine professional chapter to build a school with composting latrines in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia.

We just received approval to start a new project in Nicaragua, which consists of designing a sustainable fish farm to provide the eldercare residents with a reliable source of protein. Our chapter is planning on re-opening a past project in Nicaragua that focuses on designing and installing solar panels to power commercial washing machines.

We are also sorting out some mechanical projects, a compressed earth brick machine and hopefully a solar hot water system, for the same elder-care facilities we’re already working with.

Q: What can students get out of by being involved with your group?
A: Students can get all kinds of real world experience from participating in our group. Most students that really put in a lot of time and effort into our projects gain valuable management and leadership experience. Students learn about the complexities of international development work, team work, communication skills, and cultural understanding.

The thing most students don’t realize about our projects is that you gain real-world engineering experience. All of the student projects require at least one professional mentor to review the designs, but most projects have two or three. The practical experience gained in these projects can be equivalent to an actual internship at a firm!

Not only is there the engineering experience you get from working on the design projects, students also learn a lot about fundraising, outreach, and recruitment. These are all very valuable in being a well-rounded student.

Q: How can others help?

A: We will accept help from anyone who wants to get involved! You definitely do not have to be an engineering student. There’s a misconception that EWB is only for engineers, but we honestly can't implement our projects unless we raise enough funds or advertise well. We need a lot of help with fundraising and outreach. For example, we have partnered with a grant writing capstone class to assist us with grants and we’re working with a business capstone to develop a comprehensive fundraising and outreach plan. We also need graphic design majors to manage our website and social media. There are a lot of other facets to our organization, and we welcome all the help we can get!

We are also always in need of more coffee cart volunteers to keep our coffee cart open in the Engineering Building Lobby. It’s our main source of funding for our projects, and is only a one-hour commitment a week!

Q: What difference will a successful crowdfunding campaign make? What can this support enable you to accomplish?
A: These donations are crucial to keeping our chapter open. If we don't raise the funds, then we can't travel to implement our projects. The worst part is telling our communities that we can't help them after they requested our assistance. The significance about EWB projects is that the communities we work with can’t receive help from anyone else. They come to us because their government won’t support them.

Our chapter doesn't receive funding from PSU like other student groups do, so we have to do all the fundraising on our own. MCECS has been wonderful in helping us create this crowdfunding campaign because they want us to succeed. These projects provide valuable engineering and leadership experience for the next generation of engineers. We also provide vital infrastructure to communities in need, and help them help themselves.
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