Engineers Without Borders: Not just for engineers

By Grace Arneberg —

A new University of Wisconsin–Stout chapter has recently joined universities around the world in empowering communities in need. Earlier this month, Engineers Without Borders was approved to be an officially recognized organization on campus.

“We collaborate with local partners to design and build sustainable engineering projects,” the mission statement describes on EWB’s website. “Ultimately, we build stronger communities by empowering them with the capacity to meet their basic human needs.”

EWB is based in the United States but partners with a variety of communities, generally Third World countries, and currently has projects going on in 45 different countries. Projects include establishing sources of clean water, sanitation, energy, electricity, agriculture and architecture, depending on what the community is in need of.

When a community in need posts an application on the website, campus groups can respond and then wait to get approved by the EWB headquarters. The group will then go to the community for an assessment, come back to collaborate with the group on campus and establish a plan. Then the group will go back to either help build the projects or show the community how to do it on their own, making sure that it is sustainable. Each project requires a five-year commitment, from the first to final assessment.

“I just want us to benefit the largest amount of people we can, and give them the resources to really make it, to thrive,” said senior EWB President Trevor Sobtzak, in the Engineering Technology major.

Unfortunately, because the Stout chapter is so new, there is a lot of busywork to get through first.

“Numbers have definitely dwindled since our first meeting,” said Sobtzak. “It’s hard to keep people involved and interested throughout the paperwork process, but there are a few dedicated members who keep showing up.”

EWB at Stout is currently working on a smaller project to get their feet wet. They are planning to build a greenhouse that will potentially stand behind Red Cedar Hall.

With the long process and tedious background work that it takes to get recognized, members know that their current involvement is an investment.

“I know that I might not actually get to go on a project, but it’s exciting to be a part of helping others get to that point,” said Sobtzak. “I’m looking forward to when we can finally turn in our first application for a project.”

EWB needs more than just engineers. It needs people with skills in communication, second language, business and management, to name a few.

“Unfortunately the name is counter-intuitive,” said Sobtzak. “We need students from all majors— engineering is actually only a small part of it.”

The group is open to all Stout students, including graduate students.

“A diverse field of people really need to come together to make this as successful as possible,” said Sobtzak. “I want everyone in this organization to try to enhance their skills as far as communication, ethics, teamwork and leadership for the professional world.”

Involvement in this organization does not have to end after college, it can continue into the professional world. In addition to campus chapters, there are also professional chapters of EWB that can mentor and go on projects.

EWB meets bi-weekly, but has no set schedule at the moment. Check Campus Life Today for details about their meetings, find them on OrgSync or email ewb@uwstout.edu for more information. For more information about Engineers Without Borders, visit http://www.ewb-usa.org/

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