October 2001

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U of A Forms Chapter of
Engineers Without Borders

National Organization Created Less Than Two Years Ago to Bring Basic Technology to Developing Countries

Over the past two months, a handful of students at the University of Alberta have started an Engineers Without Borders chapter. Modeled after the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, its mission is to help developing nations by implementing basic technologies that Canadians often take for granted.

"There are two parts of the organization," explains Chatelle Leidl, the U of A chapter president. "Each university is mandated to undertake a research project involving a technology that can be implemented in developing countries. At the national level, there is an international work program where students and professionals can work with a non-government organizations in the third world to aid in development."

The national organization is still in its infancy, having formed in January 2000. It was started in Waterloo by two engineering students who financed some of the first projects out of their own money. Since then, it has grown to more than 1,000 members in 22 chapters across Canada. Engineers Without Border is already receiving international recognition. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, director of the UN's Human Development Report, has agreed to sit on the national board of directors.

Currently, there are no students from the University of Alberta working abroad, however there have been a few from other universities. Recently a 19-year-old Waterloo engineering student spent four months in India developing a website that links 10,000 non-profit aid groups.

Calgary Professor Shines a Light

In another project, two University of Calgary students are currently in Nepal installing a novel home-lighting solution. Dr. Irvine-Halliday, P.Eng., a U of C engineer, developed a white LED that can be powered by a pedal generator. (The PEGG, Oct. 2000). He says: "A person can easily read from a single WLED, which consumes one-tenth of a watt, and has continuous life in excess of 10 years."

Now, he has some extra help. "There's a lot of work to be done - I was ecstatic when Engineers Without Borders said they wanted to get involved."

Dr. Irvine-Halliday recently attended a University of Alberta Engineers Without Borders' meeting as a guest speaker. Ms Leidl assures that there will be many more events in the months to come such as guest speakers and movie nights.

Ms Leidl is a fifth-year environmental engineering student who started the group at the U of A. "I have always wanted to do one of my co-op terms abroad, but there were no organizations that offered a work program in a developing country." After talking to the national organization over the summer, she started the club.

Although, there are currently only six executive members involved with the U of A chapter, interest in the group has been phenomenal. "There were 170 students who contacted us the first week of school, wanting to get involved," she says.

"Over the next year we will be developing out contacts with non-government organizations, companies, academics and individuals," says Ms Liedl. "The success of the group depends on finding professionals who have worked internationally and are willing to get involved."
For more information about Engineers Without Borders, visit To contact the University of Alberta chapter, email

(Editor's Note: A feature on Engineers Without Borders will appear in next month's PEGG.)

Technical Societies Mixer

This fall's APEGGA technical societies mixer at the U of A was well attended by 250 students and 35 professionals. The event was held in the Students' union building in September. This semi-annual event gives students a chance to network with professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists.

Technical societies such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Edmonton Geological Society recruited student members. There were several companies looking for prospective employees. Prior to the casual dinner of pizza and pop, APEGGA organized a presentation regarding interview techniques. The students learned tips and skills to be well prepared for an interview. The next technical societies mixer is planned for the New Year.

Brian Martin is a fifth-year electrical engineering co-op student. He can be reached at


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