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Engineers Without Borders club means business

Nelson Mora, a professional advisor for UM chapter of Engineers without Borders, and the representative for the project in El Socorro, Honduras, fill up water bottles for testing. The chapter traveled to Honduras to implement technical capacity building projects that they designated for developing communities. Courtesy of Caitlin Augustin

Nelson Mora, a professional advisor for UM chapter of Engineers without Borders, and the representative for the project in El Socorro, Honduras, fill up water bottles for testing. The chapter traveled to Honduras to implement technical capacity building projects that they designated for developing communities. Courtesy of Caitlin Augustin

Despite the economic turmoil caused by the recession, members of Engineers Without Borders mean business when it comes to continuing their projects.

Since its creation in 2008, the organization has jumpstarted three projects to improve the lives of the needy, two of which are based internationally.

“I wanted to use my engineering knowledge to help improve the world,” said Benjamin Daniels, a junior at UM who is serving as the organization’s secretary this year. “It’s definitely a great way to get involved.”

Engineers Without Borders aims to find sustainable and economically viable answers to issues dealing with the quality of life of people from all over the world. Members can be involved in as many projects as they wish and attend project meetings once a week and organizational meetings every two weeks.

“The more you commit to a project the better one’s chances are that you can travel to the project site,” Daniels said.

At the moment, the three projects that the organization is working on include the Casablanca Initiative in Peru, one in Honduras and one located here in Miami that involves solar cell and energy research.

Both international projects aim at providing villagers with better access to clean water on a more regular basis. Currently, many people in El Socorro, Honduras, are receiving their water about twice a month, storing it in used water bottles or ditches in the ground.

“Nowhere we have been working has electricity really, and they are far from the grid,” said Steven Sloan, co-founder of the organization and vice president internal. “But the project is moving along really well and the group will be going for implementation in a few months.”

However, it is difficult for Engineers Without Borders to continue its operations without donor support. The Miami Solar Energy project cannot move forward until the organization can secure additional funds.

“A big issue in a club like this, when we do not want any student to pay, is that we have to be entirely self-funded,” Sloan said. “Part of this comes from grants but most of our fundraising right now comes from working at football games and other things that we are planning.”

Regardless of money troubles, members do seem to genuinely love their experiences with the organization.

“I was involved in a few groups before EWB gained a presence at UM and none of the other groups actually did anything,” said Gopal Balakrishnan, a UM senior and head of Engineers Without Borders media. “It was just a waste of time. Engineers Without Borders does things and helps people. I am proud to be a part of that.”

The group stress that they are not exclusively engineers and love for people with all sorts of interests to join.

“I always thought that we should be called people without borders,” Sloan said. “It’s a big misconception, but we welcome everybody.”

The University of Miami chapter will be hosting the Southeast Regional Conference of EWB groups Nov. 13-15, a notable feat for such a young chapter.

Although UM EWB chapter may now face economic problems with one of its projects, the group hopes to continue travel to its two international projects and to continue to erase world boundaries one by one.

This group can be contacted at umiami.ewb@gmail.com.

November 1, 2009

Reporters

Bryan Sheriff


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