BY GEORGE LEE
The University of Calgary's Dr. David Irvine-Halliday, P.Eng.,
is becoming well known in engineering, academic and even mainstream
circles for placing low-energy, environmentally friendly lighting
in the developing world. His brainchild is the Light Up the
World project, which brings white-light emitting diodes to
life with wind- and pedal-powered generators, and it earned
him an APEGGA Summit Award® for Community Service in 2000.
Dr. Irvine-Halliday's project began in Nepal, but today has
spread to India and Sri Lanka as well. His picture and stories
about his work have appeared in the national media.
Perhaps less known is the role Engineers Without Borders has
played in Light Up the World. The largely student-run organization,
which is dedicated to long-term solutions to the problems
that plague the developing world, fully funded one Light up
The World placement and partially funded two others in 2001.
It also provided project cost support.
Project by project and country by country, Canadian engineering
students are putting technology, donations and other funding,
plus their own sweat and innovation, into making the developing
world a better place. Their efforts are channelled through
EWB, which two University of Waterloo students initiated three
EWB was operational by January 2001, and by the fall of the
year both the University of Calgary and the University of
Alberta had created chapters. Today EWB has more than 2,500
members involved in 20 chapters across the country. It's raised
more than $250,000 and undertaken 40 overseas assignments
for 21 projects in 15 countries. EWB has partnered with other
non-government organizations, such as Care Canada, and helped
sister organizations start up in the United States and the
Tapping a Resource
Vidya Rangayyan, president of the Calgary chapter, encourages
engineering students, engineers and industry to help keep
the EWB momentum building. "The philosophy behind EWB
is that engineers and engineering students are an untapped
resource," she says. "We have the ability and the
responsibility to advocate appropriate technology. And by
applying our expertise and problem-solving skills, we can
help developing communities gain access to the technologies
that will improve their lives."
There are educational advantages, too, says Ms. Rangayyan.
Students who join have "the chance to internationalize
their degrees as they apply their science and engineering
skills to the betterment of humanity."
Professional engineers get to share their knowledge and learn
more about the role engineers play internationally. They also
benefit by tapping the student power EWB provides, says Ms.
Rangayyan, who is in her fourth year of a joint degree program
in geomatics engineering and international relations. "APEGGA
members have an opportunity to be a part of a young organization
with a great vision, and through their involvement, we can
all watch that vision turn to reality."
Guatemala Water Project Underway
In the highlands of northern Guatemala, that reality will
be constant water for displaced indigenous Mayans, if the
Edmonton EWB chapter has its way. Last spring, the chapter
learned about the plight of the Mayans from Sombrilla, an
Edmonton non-governmental organization.
After an intern visited the communities, EWB knew that the
problem was not water cleanliness but lack of a constant supply.
Now EWB and Sombrilla are partnering with a Guatemalan organization
to "make sure that the goals of the local Mayan people
are met through the implementation of current technologies,"
says Edmonton EWB President Paul Slomp. He's a civil engineering
student specializing in water resources and soil mechanics.
The three partners are searching for a fourth group, a non-governmental
organizational in Guatemala that specializes in water collection
and distribution systems. The hope is that one or two interns
can head to the Central American country this summer to begin
"Another branch of the work, in its preliminary stages,
is an integrated GIS/watershed modeling map for the communities,"
says Mr. Slomp. EWB is still working on funding sources and
logistics for this phase.
"The plan is to have a working model of the region that
includes the communities and their religious, social and political
orientations, along with agricultural developments. With that
information will be a model of the watershed, which will track
water usage and the downstream effects of upstream non-organic
farming and its fertilizers."
In addition to their own projects, The Edmonton and Calgary
chapters work together. They co-hosted, for example, a tour
of the Canadian Centre for Mine Action Technologies in November
(Tour Builds Awareness of World's Landmine Problem, The PEGG,
Bridges with other chapters are also being built. A Western
retreat in Banff last fall attracted 22 EWB delegates from
the University of Calgary, the University of Saskatchewan,
the University of Victoria, the University of Manitoba and
the lead organization, EWB Core.
U of C's Ms. Rangayyan says the retreat fostered communication
between members, chapters and EWB Core. "This resulted
in a greater feeling of connection between individual chapters
and the national organization as a whole. And it resulted
in a greater understanding of the vision of EWB and the goals
of the organization, which are common to all chapters."
In fact, says Ms. Rangayyan, one "great idea" that
came out of the retreat is that various chapters hold an EWB
International Development Day, all at the same time. The goal
is to use displays, activities and speakers to make university
students more aware of EWB and international development.
U OF A CHAPTER
President Paul Slomp
U OF C CHAPTER
President Vidya Rangayyan