|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
December 3, 2004
|Contact: Donald Lehr |
The Nolan/Lehr Group
(212) 967-8200 / email@example.com
Engineers Week Global Outreach In 2005 Focuses On Engineers Without Borders
Knowing that engineers improve quality of life, Engineers Without Borders – USA (EWB-USA) was established in 2000 to mobilize volunteer engineers and engineering students to design and implement projects that bring sustainable, long-term benefits to impoverished communities around the globe. From a year-round water supply for a village in parched Burkina-Faso to bringing electricity and computer education to remote reaches of Nepal , the non-profit corporation has quietly grown to become one of the most significant goodwill efforts of the American engineering community.
Engineers Week 2005 co-chairs ASME (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and BP p.l.c., have made Engineers Without Borders a major focus of their activities. Engineers Week, for more than 50 years the profession’s most visible public awareness and outreach program, has always highlighted the engineering community’s volunteerism. For 2005, the support and expansion of the work of Engineers Without Borders underscores the new global thrust of EWeek and the organization’s intention to take its message worldwide.
The Engineers Week partnership with EWB-USA calls on engineers from every discipline to help design and construct water, wastewater, sanitation, energy, and shelter systems in developing communities. These projects are initiated by and completed with contributions from the host community to ensure that locals can own and operate the systems without external assistance, long after the engineers have left. EWeek’s co-chairs are encouraging engineering societies to organize multidisciplinary teams to adopt an ongoing EWB-USA project or help develop a new project of their own. In turn, the societies will recruit engineering students and young engineers to implement the projects.
Typical of the challenges EWB-USA volunteers face is the small village of Santisuk in the northern reaches of Thailand . Three decades ago, small bands of the once nomadic Lahu Shele tribe settled there after escaping civil unrest in nearby Myanmar , formerly known as Burma . Having survived for generations as hunters and gatherers, they soon hunted out all local game and then turned to slash and burn agriculture, eventually destroying much of the area’s topsoil, along with the ability to grow crops. Further, improper resources management resulted in unstable water supplies for crops and drinking water tainted with bacteria, which caused widespread stomach ailments.
Engineering students from the University of New Hampshire in Durham , led by EWB-USA volunteer Dick Herring, a chemical engineer based in Colorado , adopted the project for Engineers Without Borders in 2003. First, they tackled the drinking water dilemma by installing filters and setting aside a leach field. Wastewater was separated from drinking water, bacteria was eliminated, and the stomach illness subsided. During the next monsoon season, however, rains overloaded the spring box that supplied drinking water, clogging it with debris and silt. Earlier this year, the students returned to build a new spring box, installing drainage berms, reinforced concrete walls, and a corrugated roof to protect from debris.
This major achievement is only the beginning of the UNH team’s commitment. In January, the students are returning to develop an irrigation canal that can withstand the pressures of heavy rains, which normally overwhelm the current system and cause massive waste. They will also institute a waste collection system to help maintain groundwater purity. Further plans include a health clinic, school dormitory, and hydrological study.
At the core of their work is a wide-ranging communication and education project that fully involves the villagers to let them take control over their resource management. Crop rotation, field terracing, use of vegetative buffers, better fertilization practices and development of a seed bank are all part of the plan to ensure long-lasting productivity for the village.
The students’ efforts have not gone unnoticed. When they return in January, they will be shadowed by a film crew making a documentary on the village’s success.
“Engineers Without Borders is acutely aware of the vast needs of so many of the world’s people,” says Cathy Leslie, EWB’s executive director. “We’re equally aware of the engineering community’s ability and willingness to effect meaningful change in answer to those needs.”
Besides its humanitarian benefits, Harry Armen, 2005 president of ASME, also sees Engineers Without Borders as an ideal goodwill ambassador for the profession. “Our program for Engineers Week 2005 not only opens opportunities for engineers and engineering students to answer the call to service,” he notes, “we’re also raising awareness about the contributions of engineers in the global community.”
Finally, students in EWB projects experience engineering at its most personal and rewarding level. “Students use and refine their developing technical skills to tackle problems and achieve immediate results,” says Victoria Rockwell, 2005 Engineers Week chair, ASME member and a mechanical engineer. “They see first hand the powerful impact they can make, in very different cultures than their own, and develop a sense of belonging to the community of engineers that contributes to human progress. These are lessons that can only be learned by doing.”
For more information on the Engineers Week partnership with Engineers Without Borders – USA, visit www.eweek.org.
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Engineers Week, founded in 1951 by NSPE, is dedicated to raising public awareness of engineers’ positive contributions to the quality of life. It promotes recognition among parents, teachers and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science, and technology literacy, and motivates youth to pursue engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and vigorous engineering workforce. Co-chairs for 2005 are ASME International (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and BP p.l.c.