Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting engineers to communities that need help with basic needs. In 2008, an EWB chapter was co-founded by two female civil engineering professors, Libby Jones and Shannon Bartlett-Hunt, at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. It is this chapter that has gone on to work on projects focused on supplying basic needs to the people of Madagascar, Uganda and Zambia.
“I saw what other universities were doing with EWB and thought we should do that as well. The projects I saw them doing looked like a great way to bring another dimension to engineering as well as getting engineering [students] from all majors working together on different types of projects,” said Jones.
Since the inception of the club, they have focused on bringing water supplies and solar panel installation to areas of Madagascar and Zambia with the help and partnership of the Madagascar Biodiversity Project. The projects are planned during the school year but are then carried out during the summer when students are out of class.
In 2010, they carried out a solar panel installation project in Kianjavato that helped provide lights for students in the classrooms. Capro Keeler, club president, said it is difficult for students to see in classrooms once the sun sets and the buildings get darker. “It’s good for them so they can study and learn after-hours and also hold meetings,” she said. “If they don’t pass, that’s the end of their schooling; because of this, a lot of them study at night.”
According to Jones, before the installation of the solar panels, most students would study at home by candlelight or with small kerosene lamps. The newly installed lighting allowed teachers to open the classrooms in the evenings to allow students to study.
This EWB chapter plans to return to Madagascar in May 2019 to help install lights in another school as well as begin planning installation for another two or three schools. Since the beginning of the project in 2010, they have installed lights at six schools in the region.
Because of their work, they have received multiple awards. Jones sees it as humbling, but is even more excited to see how the students receive recognition and love doing the work.
“EWB has become one of the most valued things over my four years,” Keeler said. “I would love to do something like it in the future.”