BY ALAN MARTIN
University of Calgary
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
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
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
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
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!
Go to The PEGG
search engine and type in
Engineers Without Borders