Shawn Rantung, a senior mechanical engineering major, has used Walla Walla University’s partnership with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) to build his resume and further his career. His leadership in the club as project manager this year and mechanical lead last year has taught him the values of communication and teamwork. Rantung shared some of his favorite aspects about being a member of the EWB club:
Summer Boulais: What is EWB and why are you a part of it?
Shawn Rantung: Engineers Without Borders is a worldwide non-profit organization that aims to provide engineering expertise and technical advice to those that need it in international or local projects. I joined my junior year because I wanted more experience with hands-on projects while still being able to contribute to local projects around me.
Boulais: What is the current project EWB is working on? What progress have you made?
Rantung: Currently our client is EWB here at WWU working on developing a device for the welcome back bash event. Our project is a water system that goes above and over the table that measures the flow of water. For a friendly competition, you pump and see the water go around the booth and the winner who pumps the most gets a prize. There are two other international projects working on wells and water systems in Tanzania and Eswatini. We wanted to show we are a club that has engineering expertise while putting together this cool watering system that brings attention to our water projects in Africa.
Boulais: How does EWB tackle obstacles on a local and international level?
Rantung: We tackle a project by evaluating whether or not a certain project is worth the funds and energy to continue. It is important to realize what the best use of our resources are. Eswatini’s project has locals on their team, and they address certain problems within the village. Students flew to Eswatini before school started- they explored the problem and created a scope of a project to see what they can do during the year. Tanzania is officially recognized by EWB, so they did one trip and they will do more in the future. One part of EWB that stands out is that our club has multiple projects with several opportunities to fly and travel.
Boulais: Why are these projects important and how do they help with your career?
Rantung: For me personally, other than non-profit community work and outreach, and providing technical advice, it’s very important to build you as a student and as future engineers. Projects in EWB have been in my resume and helped me get into graduate schools. It is invaluable experience for a resume you wouldn't find in other places. From an engineering standpoint, potential employers like seeing community work related to engineering. Ultimately engineering is about improving technology of the community and the daily lives of the people around us.
Boulais: What lessons have you gathered from your experiences with EWB?
Rantung: Communication is key in projects, it is important to manage resources and time very carefully as a leader. We try to work together as a team instead of individuals with tasks, and I try to be more understanding as a leader. To delegate tasks and subtasks, having communication is an important team-building skill.
Boulais: What is your favorite aspect of being involved with EWB?
Rantung: My favorite part about EWB is it gives me a project that I am in charge of, and I have the freedom to creatively express my thoughts to a plan of action. I also enjoy fundraising events and I like contributing to community outreach. As a team leader, one thing I love is that I get to give younger students opportunities to get hands-on experience early in their collegiate career and give them something to put on their resume that may help them get internships. Being able to pass on what I have accomplished here is a great feeling.
A research assistantship was awarded to Rantung from Purdue University where he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Visit https://ewb-wwu.org/ to learn more about WWU’s EWB club and the various projects they are involved with.
Posted on April 24, 2023.