WWU's Engineers Get First Project

Engineers Without Borders chapter goes to Honduras

By: Becky St. Clair

The 2008 officers of WWU's chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

During the 2006-2007 school year, students from WWU’s School of Engineering organized and implemented the WWU chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB).  EWB is a non-profit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life.

After a year of electing officers, gaining support and stamina, and establishing a presence at WWU and within the community, WWU’s chapter of EWB has been given its first project.  

In the fall of 2007, the national EWB projects coordinator traveled to Honduras and spoke with local communities, including one called Louis Garcia, a town in the northwest corner of Honduras, 16 miles south of San Pedro Sula.  While there, the coordinator discovered that their school building often floods during the rainy season, canceling classes and wearing away the structural integrity of the building.

WWU’s chapter of EWB will tackle this project, their first phase being to replace the school building with one that will stand up to the rainy season.  Secondly, the students intend to analyze the community’s water and sanitation conditions to see if further action is necessary.

Though WWU’s EWB chapter does not have any specific dates yet, they have a general timeline and expect an assessment trip (required by EWB National in order to establish a relationship with the community and take a closer look at what they actually need) to take place during the summer of 2008.  Beginning next school year (2008-2009), the WWU chapter of EWB plans to design the new school building for Louis Garcia, in order to be ready to go to Honduras in the spring of 2009.

The chapters of EWB are expected to raise all funds needed for their project that the local community is unable to supply.  

“Usually the only funds they can supply come in the currency of labor, or ‘sweat equity,’ as it is often called,” says John Hawkins, president of WWU’s chapter of EWB.  The estimated funds WWU’s EWB will need to raise for this project in Honduras is approximately $40,000.

The group is not yet sure who will be going to Honduras to work on the project, though they have guidelines for the selection process.  The assessment trip will include one professional engineering mentor, one public health professional, and 2-3 students.  The implementation trip (expected to take place in spring 2009) will include the same mentor and professional, but a few more students.

“In my opinion, this new project fits our chapter perfectly,” says Hawkins.  “I am very happy for our chapter to be able to help make education available in a practical way to students who could not attend school before.  I know of no engineering solution more sustainable than education.”

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