New Engineers Without Borders Group Aims to go From BU to Peru

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Boston University Engineers Without Borders president Chris Spring (AME '08) and project chair Rachel De Lucas, a graduate student in manufacturing engineering
Boston University Engineers Without Borders president Chris Spring (AME '08) and project chair Rachel De Lucas, a graduate student in manufacturing engineering

The College of Engineering has established a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and the group is targeting a remote Peruvian town for its first project. The students are planning a series of fundraisers to meet the costs of preliminary trips to the town, where they hope to begin work next year on engineering projects that will improve the quality of life for citizens there.

“My main inspiration for going into engineering is to do humanitarian work and have community involvement in the developing world. I want to apply my skills in a productive manner,” said Chris Spring (AME ’08), president of BU’s EWB chapter.

The BU chapter includes graduate and undergraduate students from the College of Engineering and faculty advisors associate professor Greg McDaniel (AME) and assistant professor Catherine Klapperich (MFG). The group is also open to students from other colleges and schools of BU in related disciplines, such as the School of Public Health.

The national Engineers Without Borders organization was created in 2000 to work with developing communities around the world to address problems such as a lack of clean drinking water or electricity. Chapters throughout the US fundraise, design and implement projects that focus on engineering sustainable solutions for the communities they help. EWB includes 186 student chapters and 70 professional chapters that work in more than 44 countries, according to national EWB chapter coordinator Tracy Beavers.

“Engineers Without Borders is an organization that lets you participate in an engineering initiative on every level — dealing with people and their needs — but you also have restraints typical to engineering projects. This lets you think creatively and use what you’re learning to find a solution,” said BU project chair Rachel DeLucas, a graduate student in manufacturing engineering.

The BU students will work on a project for the remote town of Chirimoto in northern Peru. Three years of severe flooding decimated the rural agricultural town beginning in 1980. About 10 years ago, the river’s drainage system was improved, allowing the residents to start rebuilding without fear of more severe floods.

Several EWB members will make a preliminary trip to Chirimoto, likely during January, to assess the town’s needs. The students will also have the guidance of Luis Chavez, a PhD student in Romance Languages, who first alerted the BU EWB chapter to the town’s situation. He comes from Chirimoto and recently built a community center there called Hummingbird House. Possibilities for the EWB project include installation of solar panels to bring electricity to the community center, water sanitation or urban planning projects. The students will return to Chirimoto to implement their project, with national EWB approval, approximately 12 to 18 months following the initial visit.

Leading up to their trips, EWB members are focused on planning, fundraising and gaining expertise. An EWB project typically requires $30,000 to $50,000 for supplies and travel costs. Fundraising efforts will be scheduled throughout the coming academic year, including a silent auction in the Photonics Center on Oct. 18. The group also plans to hold a series of lectures or technical workshops in the fall to learn more about solar panels and other technology they may work with in Chirimoto.

For more information, please email ewb-officers-list@bu.edu.