U of C EWB Helps Out Around the World

University of Calgary
Student Contributor


Many people have heard of Doctors Without Borders, the international medical group that helps provide health care and medicines to underdeveloped countries. Engineering has its own version of this – Engineers Without Borders.

EWB helps developing nations with technological tasks, such as affordable water pumps and filters that can be easily operated and maintained by local residents. Here at the University of Calgary, we have a chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

One of EWB’s primary goals is to develop student awareness about the humanitarian issues it deals with all the time.

In February, EWB Calgary presented the Water Filter Game to students at the University of Calgary as part of International Week. In this case the game and presentations were for university students. Similar presentations are, however, being done for high schools as part of a nationwide EWB initiative to raise awareness about world water issues. These high school presentations are part of the Engineers Without Borders High School Outreach Program.

The program is designed to introduce students to “the challenges that the world will face pertaining to water, both in Canada and throughout the world,” says Karen Ng, vice-president of communications for the University of Calgary chapter.

More EWB Info


The Water Filter Game follows presentations about the limited fresh water supply and treatment processes used to make water potable. After the presentation, students are divided into groups representing different countries. These groups are given funds representing the Gross Domestic Product of that country, and are required to build a water filter using those funds.

Other differences between the countries are added, such as encrypting the instructions for groups whose countries have lower literacy rates. “Through this activity, students can appreciate the challenges in utilizing limited resources to construct an essential device,” says Ms. Ng.

EWB hopes to encourage students to take interest and action in dealing with water issues around the world, and perhaps join an organization such as EWB. Development programs and other activities can help students in EWB learn more about this and other worldwide issues.

So far, the effort in Calgary has brought positive results with a few presentations already booked and several schools expressing interest in the presentations.

The University of Calgary chapter of Engineers Without Borders is also working on helping out people in underdeveloped countries. Each year, some students team up with EWB and spend an internship in another country, working to alleviate local problems. This period away from home would typically be 12 or 16 months, like a standard U of C internship period.

Examples of these projects include providing solar water heater in Kyrgyzstan, providing clean water and sanitation to several rural communities in India, and providing education tools to students and teachers at a senior secondary school in Buwagga Uganda. All these projects help out others around the world, and also give engineering students some great experience using their engineering skills.

They also, of course, experience going to another country and meeting the people, breaking down cultural barriers, and learning new things and skills that go beyond engineering.

Engineering Week Results

Last issue I wrote about Engineering Week, but couldn’t give the final results at the time of the PEGG’s deadline. This year’s charity, the Children’s Wish Foundation, has about $4,600 more in its coffers, thanks to the efforts of engineering students.

The winner of week’s competitions was the mechanical engineering team – for the third time in the last five years. Congratulations, Mech!

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