Women engineering change
All-woman Engineers Without Borders team completes Philippines assessment trip
9:22 a.m., Feb. 25, 2016--Sarah Hartman, a junior environmental engineering major and member of an all-woman University of Delaware Engineers Without Borders (EWB-UD) team that recently visited the small village of Ubujan in the Philippines, said the program gives her education a deeper meaning.
“I am not just learning for myself, but I am learning for the almost 1,200 people of Ubujan for whom my education will mean a better life,” said Hartman, an Honors Program student.
Peace Corps plans
The team, which included students Hartman, Melissa Landman, Jessica Fedetz and Lia Dawson, faculty adviser Kim Bothi of the Institute for Global Studies and UD alumna and professional engineer Carrie DeSimone, traveled to the Philippines in late January to complete the chapter’s second assessment trip for a potable water and sanitation project in Ubujan.
During their time abroad, the group conducted water tests and focused on elevation surveying, observing sanitation practices, and initiating educational programs throughout the community.
This final assessment phase will allow a larger group of UD students, faculty members and professional engineers to design a sustainable solution to the community’s water needs.
Landman, a junior mechanical engineering major, was most affected by the local Water Council’s commitment to seeing the project through.
“The Water Council was established at the start of the project to ensure longevity and sustainability of whatever we implement with the community in the future,” she said, adding that members helped with the surveying and water testing, and took copious notes so that they could continue testing once the UD group had returned home.
Beyond finishing essential testing needed to move on to the implementation phase of the project, the women also helped to alter the local community’s perception of engineers. “We learned rather quickly that the perception that engineering is a man’s job is not solely American,” said Landman.
The group addressed the community in several public forums, including fifth and sixth grade classes at the local elementary school. There, each member introduced herself and described what she was studying in college.
“When I said I was a mechanical engineering student, and that my discipline encompasses designing cars, bikes and planes, the students looked at me in awe,” said Landman. “When we asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up, a few of the girls shouted ‘I want to be an engineer!’” This, she said, was a profound and unforgettable moment.
Throughout the trip, the student team members looked to their mentors, Bothi and DeSimone. “It is inspiring to be surrounded by Kim and Carrie because they have both fearlessly used their passions to help the world,” said Hartman.
This spring, a group of EWB-UD members will perform alternative analyses, research a number of plausible solutions, and present these to the community for a final discussion on how Ubujan will finally receive a steady source of potable water.
Through this process, students will be mentored by UD faculty members and local professional engineers, while also coordinating with the Ubujan Water Council and experts from the region.
The first implementation team will likely travel to the Philippines this summer to begin the first phase of a water supply system. In order to do this, EWB-UD must raise approximately $40,000.
At the same time, the chapter is actively preparing to implement a potable water solution in Mphero, a village in Malawi, with plans to move into the first phase of construction there by this summer.
To raise funds for both projects, the chapter will host its annual benefit dinner on April 22, from 6:30-9:30 p.m., in the atrium of the Harker Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory. There, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy dinner while meeting members of the Philippines and Malawi EWB-UD teams. Each will present an in-depth update on the progress of their respective projects.
For more information on UD’s Engineers Without Borders chapter or for complete details on the annual benefit dinner, visit the chapter’s website or follow it on Facebook and Twitter. Those with questions are welcome to contact co-advisers Kim Bothi and Abigail Clarke-Sather.
About Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders-USA is a non-profit, humanitarian organization of dedicated and enthusiastic students and professionals who believe everyone should have access to adequate sanitation, safe drinking water and resources to meet their basic needs.
The University of Delaware chapter works closely with an international community and professional engineers to identify a local challenge, and then develop and implement a sustainable solution.
Since the organization started in 2006, UD teams have completed a potable water supply project in Cameroon and a bridge construction project in Guatemala. The chapter’s current community partnerships are in Malawi and the Philippines.
EWB-UD actively seeks students from all academic backgrounds for its projects. Students from any academic discipline who are interested in becoming a part of the chapter are encouraged to attend a weekly meeting, held Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in 217 Gore Hall.
Article by Nikki Laws
Photos courtesy of Kim Bothi and Sarah Hartman