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Engineers Without Borders chapter wins award for NIU’s Top Student Organization of the Year

May 23, 2011

For the first time ever, the College of Engineering & Engineering Technology houses the top student organization of the year at NIU: Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

EWB was recognized for its outstanding service, leadership and performance throughout the 2010-2011 school year. NIU’s Student Involvement & Leadership Development presented EWB with this award May 1 at its annual banquet. EWB was among 400 student organizations judged on their leadership, performance, dedication and service to NIU, the community and the world as a whole.

Members of NIU's Engineers Without Borders chapter

Across the campus, EWB members are not only involved with campus activities but take service to entirely new level.

Traveling to Africa last summer, the group successfully installed solar panels in the roof of a classroom residing in a remote village lacking firewood and other necessary means to power their schools. By doing so, the school was able to reduce expenses, thus providing education to more children who typically could not afford the tuition. In many villages in Africa, education is only available to those who can afford it.

Promod Vohra, dean of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, said he is proud of the students and believes that they enrich their professional and personal lives through such participation.

“Understanding global issues and using technical expertise to make positive changes in society is one of the primary responsibilities of the engineering profession,” said Vohra, who provides the financial support for the organization.

This July and December, the group will again travel back to Nyegina, this time improving upon the cooking system used for feeding the school children.

Specifically, they will build, design and implement a solar thermal system for cooking food. This will provide a source of both profit and nourishment for the community through decreased operating costs and improved cooking methods.

Once EWB finishes the new project, they’ll work with members of the community establishing plans for sustaining the new systems.

Faculty adviser Andrew Otieno, professor in the Department of Technology, said he is especially proud of this group of student’s ability to work together. “The group is very cohesive, and they put in a lot of time designing and building their project,” Otieno said. “I also think the student leadership of the group is very strong and committed to this organization.”

NIU engineering student Alan Hurt is traveling in Africa this summer to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and conduct research.

NIU engineering student Alan Hurt is traveling in Africa this summer to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and conduct research.

One surprising aspect of the group is its diversity.

President Alan Hurt, who is currently climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as a fundraiser for African school children, speaks to the group’s dynamic partnerships.

“NIU’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders consists of students from nearly every college on campus. From engineering and English to business and psychology, we are a highly diverse group of students who crossed interdisciplinary endeavors to implement sustainable engineering solutions to meet simple human needs,” Hurt said. “What’s more, our ability to partner with other student organizations, the community and NIU remains the foundation to our success.”