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Impact on Students
Making the World a Better Place
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One of the impulses behind becoming an engineer is to make the world a better place. What better way to focus that impulse than Engineers Without Borders.
The vision of the Engineers Without Borders organization is "a world in which all communities have the capacity to meet their basic human needs." In ten short years, Engineers Without Borders has grown to more than 300 chapters nationwide, with over 12,000 members. They support worldwide community-driven development programs through fostering responsible leadership and the design and implementation of sustainable engineering projects. Chapters cultivate long-term relationships with individual communities, and multiple projects are conducted for those communities.
"It is very easy for new engineers to think they need to develop completely new, cutting-edge technology in order to solve the world's problems," says Toni Cupal, whose endowment supports this remarkable organization. "The Engineers Without Borders project model is powerful since it allows students to experience firsthand that sometimes the most elegant and critical solutions are found through simplicity and proven technologies."
In October 2005, for example, the village of Panabaj on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala was struck by mudslides following Hurricane Stan, which destroyed hundreds of homes and the school and hospital. As a pilot project for this program, the student members of the Engineers Without Borders Wyoming Chapter designed and constructed a vocational-technical school in the new village of Chocomuc, built to relocate the survivors from Panabaj. Expanding its reach to Africa, the chapter has established a relationship with the village of Mbita, Kenya, on the shores of Lake Victoria.
"Our Kenya program started when a medical group called Project Cure returned to Laramie," says Lucas Lang, president of UW's chapter of Engineers Without Borders. "They realized that the source of many of the people's health problems was due to the lack of a clean, reliable, and convenient water source. We put many hours into raising funds and preparing for the assessment trip. During our travel, we conducted health surveys and water testing and analyzed the resources of the community. Since our return, we have begun designing a water supply system for our partner community. It is my hope that we can implement a sustainable water source for our partner community."
What better person to support this worthy endeavor than Toni Cupal. Toni's father Jerry is a professor emeritus within the UW Department of Electrical Engineering. Toni has a BS in physics and astronomy from UW and an MBA and MS in manufacturing systems engineering from Stanford University. She has spent the last 10 years working in the non-profit sector on issues related to health and human services, the environment, and international development. She knows the impact engineering can have on the world, and as a consequence she established an endowment that supports this worthy project.
"The long-term relationship that is developed with communities allows students to really understand the perspectives of the people they are trying to help and provides them with a clear view of what a ‘sustainable' solution really is," says Toni. "All of these skills are so critical in finding solutions to today's most pressing global issues. I think Engineers Without Borders is a fantastic organization."
"The gift to Engineers Without Borders substantially helps underpin the efforts of students and faculty working for UW's chapter of Engineers Without Borders," says Rob Ettema, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. "In particular, it will enable them to focus more on the tasks associated with Engineers Without Borders projects, and less so on fund-raising."
Josh Fuller, manager of the Kenya project