Instead of skiing or sledding down snow-covered slopes, or lounging near swimming pools in warmer climes, a half-dozen NIU students who are members of the organization Engineers Without Borders will spend their holiday break in Nyegina, Tanzania.
NIU’s students will get their hands dirty at the Nyegina Secondary School, rebuilding the oven used to cook the breakfast, lunch and dinner served to the young children.
Their goal is to make the wood-burning stove, which now uses a forest-load of timber, more efficient.
“The current metal stove is so expensive to use (but) it’s the only stove the school has,” said sophomore mechanical engineering major Joshua Ott. “After working with the school’s administrators and kitchen workers, we came up with a brick design that will help save money and wood.”
While the students and their consultant are in Tanzania, they also will install a solar-powered water heater, another money-saving task earmarked for the school’s infrastructure.
Both projects will cost a combined $21,000.
The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology has been the main sponsor for EWB providing a significant portion of funding. The Chicago Professional Chapter has provided a $2,500 grant. The Omron Foundation also has given money.
“Engineers Without Borders has a five-year commitment to work at the school,” said Hurt, an NIU senior who is studying industrial and systems engineering and mechanical engineering. “We have been working there since 2009 and have already accomplished a lot.”
On previous trips, students have designed and installed a money- and energy-saving solar electrical system in the remote school’s classrooms and dormitories.
“Every time we start a project, we consult with school administrators and teachers so they can tell us the availability of resources and their needs,” Ott said. “It’s important to include them because it’s their school; they’re the ones who use it.”
And every project is designed to last for years, he added.
The 300 members of the group, which is housed in NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, were applauded for superlative performance and leadership during the 2010-2011 school year.
“It was such an honor receiving the award,” said Shruti Shah, an EWB member and senior psychology major. “We work so hard on the projects, but we never expected to receive the award. Wherever we go we just want to make a difference.”
EWB membership is not restricted to students majoring in engineering but is open to all NIU students.
For more information, email [email protected].
by Gerard Dziuba