Engineers Without Borders
|Engineers Without Borders|
|Executive Board:|| 2011 Year|
Claudia Vargas, Co-President
Kevin Ma, Co-President
Kristina Lee, Funding Chair
Bethany Schneider, Education Chair
Christine Liu, Public Relations Chair
Allison Duh, Events Chair
Min Ye Shen, Secretary
Rebecca Ciez, Treasurer
David Bendetto, Webmaster
Suraj Cheema, Project Manager (Ghana)
Alison Ferris, Project Manager (Uganda)
|Category:||Community Service, Pre-professional|
Engineers Without Borders is a student chapter of the NGO Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA), whose mission is to support “community-driven development programs worldwide by collaborating with local partners to design and implement sustainable engineering projects.” They are a student volunteer organization aimed at applying technical engineering skills toward aiding impoverished communities across the world. This is achieved designed solutions to problems raised by a community in a developing country, raising funds for these designs and finally sending groups of students to the country in order to implement these solutions.
Vision and Mission
Our vision is a world in which the communities we serve have the capacity to sustainably meet their basic human needs, and that our members have enriched global perspectives through the innovative professional educational opportunities that the EWB-USA program provides.
EWB-USA supports community-driven development programs worldwide by collaborating with local partners to design and implement sustainable engineering projects, while creating transformative experiences and responsible leaders.
- Orissa, India - building a micro hydro system to provide a low cost energy source to the community
The Ghana Program within CU-EWB works with the village of Obodan, Ghana to improve sanitation and access to water resources while focusing on developing methods to convert waste to energy via source-separated latrines. This innovative latrine separates liquid and solid waste, allowing the waste to decompose naturally without odors and allowing villagers to safely clean out the facility on their own. The nitrogen-rich urine that is collected can be used for fertilizer on villagers’ farms and even aid bacteria in producing biomass to be used for methane, and solid composted waste can be used as a source of renewable energy, such as biofuel for powering pumps or methane for use in cooking. Meanwhile, designs are in the works for a gravity-fed water distribution system to improve water accessibility in Obodan, since multiple visits to the water source are cumbersome. A motorized pump can move water from the source—a borehole that currently supplies water to the village, to an overhead tank at the center of town. The pump will ideally be powered by the compost as biodiesel—a clean, renewable and locally available resource.
Based on feedback from the villagers of Obodan during community workshops, and considering that Obodan is a farming-based community, our team decided to improve upon the main public latrine, a Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pit (KVIP), built in 2005 with the aid of CU-EWB. The team realized that the original KVIP, though helpful in addressing the shortage of proper sanitation facilities, was not an ideal solution due to its release of strong odors and need for relatively expensive cleaning procedure.
This past summer in 2010 they implemented one source-separated latrine and began construction on another to be completed this summer in 2011. There are two chambers, where only one is used at a time while the other is covered, usually for about half a year. While one is used, the other will be composting. By the time the used chamber is full, the other will be naturally composted and ready to be converted either to methane or for biofuel use. The source-separated latrine now produces odorless waste—nutrient-rich urine that can be used as fertilizer and solid waste that turns into compost after a certain retention time. Our immediate research efforts are in collaboration with our faculty advisor to address possible avenues of compost reuse, specifically relating to soil for crops and fuel for household use.
The community has also expressed their desire for a water distribution system. Currently, villagers obtain water from two handpumps. The goal is to build a gravity-fed system in which water can be accessed via spigots throughout the village. This requires water to be pumped to an overhead tank from the borehole, and is best accomplished by an automated pump. The solid waste from the source-separated latrine is a most appropriate source of power for the pump. It is a clean energy source, renewable and certainly available locally, especially with the source-separated latrine situated in the village. Further research is being conducted to determine an optimal way to utilize the waste for powering the water pump.
The use of waste to power the village’s water system is a sustainable solution to their water and sanitation needs. It is a solution not only to Obodan, but also for developing communities in Ghana and throughout the world.
The Community and PilgrimBiofuel Lab
The past twenty-five years have brought significant distress to Soroti in the form of multiple rebel insurgencies, regional conflicts, and cattle raids. In light of the returning peace, now is a critical time for the development of new industries and technologies. As families returned to their farms, Pilgrim established an extensive network of farming co-ops throughout the area to jumpstart development through the sharing of information and resources. Pilgrim’s strong, proven field capacity, along with the positive rapport already established with the community, is a strong asset in understanding community needs and facilitating workshops and trainings to increase community ownership of the infrastructure, making them an ideal partner for a scalable agricultural intervention.
In rural regions like Soroti, a major obstacle to development is limited access to affordable energy. Increasing access to energy can free valuable time spent on repetitive or unhealthy tasks, and create the space necessary for further sustainable and poverty-reducing developments. Multifunction platforms (MFPs) have been proven as an effective piece of development infrastructure, providing important mechanization for agricultural processing, electricity generation, and domestic or irrigation water supply systems, often also resulting in significant income generation.
The main component of a Multifunction Platform (MFP) is a stationary diesel engine mounted on a fixed frame. The MFPs can be attached to various agricultural processing equipment such as millers, grinders, oil presses, water pumps, and electric generators. The engine is connected to one or more of the pieces of equipment at a time via a belt and pulley system, providing a host of services through its multi-functionality.
The MFP has been modified to run on straight vegetable oil through the use of a custom designed pre-heater kit. The pre-heater kit uses heat from the engine’s combustion chamber to lower the oil’s viscosity to a level suitable for engine use.
The use of locally grown jatropha oil as the fuel source for MFPs has both environmental and economic benefit over traditional fossil fuels and would provide the region with energy independence and income-generating opportunities. Jatropha has gained much popularity recently as a biodiesel feedstock, though the body of research is still limited. The Uganda program supports Pilgrim in its efforts to encourage cultivation of jatropha in the community.
Rainwater Harvesting and Water Distribution
CU-EWB Uganda is working with Pilgrim’s Beacon of Hope College in Soroti to address their water needs. Since the water supply at the school is unreliable and the rainwater harvesting system is broken, the students have to take time out of their schedules to get water from a nearby well. By fixing the rainwater harvesting system and implementing a water distribution system, the Uganda program hopes to free up valuable time for the students to pursue their own interests and studies.
Since the current rainwater harvesting system at the school has a broken tank, CU-EWB Uganda is looking to fix or replace the existing tank and install a first flush system. The first flush system will provide a cleaner rainwater supply by keeping dirt, debris, and other large contaminants from the roof out of the water supply.
Water Distribution System
The school campus only has one city-provided water tap, forcing faculty and student to walk large distances for water. This makes taking showers, cooking meals, and completing science labs especially inconvenient. Therefore, CU-EWB is planning improve access to the city water by implementing a water distribution system with three additional taps. The taps will be located in front of the kitchen, girls’ hostel, and the latrines.