The UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows have selected Engineers Without Borders as one of the winners of the Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement for Spring 2014. Founded eight years ago, the community service project aims to create a sustainable engineering solution to a problem in an underserved international community. Currently, the club has three small engineering projects situated in Guatamala, Nicaragua, and Thailand, allowing students to practice and apply their engineering knowledge to real-life projects in a variety of environments. The Guatemala project focuses on water-related projects (specifically a rainwater capturing system) that provide sanitary and clean water to underserved communities, while the Nicaragua and Thailand projects focus on building schoolhouses and community centers for local residents.
Engineers Without Borders visits sites every single summer for ten days. Niru Senthikumar, current Project Manager for the Guatemala project and incoming President, noted that her fondest memories of the project were during her trip to Central America in June of 2013: “The different culture… It was great to be able to experience this with classmates, especially the interaction with the community we serve. They were so appreciative, very kind, very welcoming.” During the school year, project members meet to design and evaluate their work. The Guatemala project is currently building water tanks to store clean water during dry seasons for a rural community. During their annual summer visit, Engineers Without Borders built 2 water tanks. Throughout the year, they fundraise and provide updated designs for their affiliated non-governmental organization, Casasito, to build water tanks in their place. The designs go through quality testing up to the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).
During the upcoming year, Engineers Without Borders plans to close the Guatemala project. Having finished the design, they are currently in the process of putting together an instruction manual for building the tanks so that the residents of the community can be self-sufficient. They are currently looking for a new site to begin another water-sanitation related project, this time in Africa. Niru explains: “There has to be a different design based on climate and on location. At first, in Guatemala, the team designed an in-ground tank, but ran into difficulties regarding the amount of dirt that had to be dug out for the tank. They then reverted to an above ground tank design, which was very good because it can be made relatively quickly. However, we can’t do the same thing in different communities (i.e. the future Africa site) and expect not to run into any problems.”
Currently, the organization has around 40 regular members and 10 officers. Each of the three projects has a project manager in charge of obtaining funding, writing grants, and publicizing for their respective projects. Prospective members are encouraged to attend the General Meetings, which are hosted every week on Tuesdays at 6:15 PM in Engineering IV Building, Room 38138. General meetings are broken down into general announcements and project-specific meetings.
The UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows are honored to recognize Engineers Without Borders as one of the recipients of the Spring 2014 Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement. For more information on the organization, visit its website: www.facebook.com/groups/uclaewb/.