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NIU Engineers Without Borders builds globally

September 25, 2013

NIU Engineers Without Borders in AfricaEngineers Without Borders is dedicated to bringing the classroom to other countries to design and build new projects that can help fix problems and build portfolios.

Based in the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, this group of boundary-crossing individuals travel to remote places and help others to design projects which alleviate issues.

Some of these projects include a clean-burning and sustainable wood stove, and the water robotics designed to help fix the water flow and access for many villages.

“The goal or mission is to work with the community to develop sustainable energy solutions while creating transformative experiences and responsible leaders,” said Mohammad Athar, president of the NIU group. “We also work locally in and out of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in order to find ways to give back globally.”

One of the many projects EWB participates in locally is “A Day without Shoes,” an opportunity to battle poverty by donating a pair of shoes. For the truly committed, participants can spend the entire day without shoes to help understand the plight of impoverished people. The shoes are the refurbished and sent to impoverished nations where the citizens might not have access to proper footwear.

NIU Engineers Without Borders in Africa

EWB also participates in the recycled boat race. In the campus-wide event, teams are instructed to build boats using design plans, giving the organization a chance to educate new or existing members on the importance of teamwork and plan development.

On a more global scale, EWB participants have worked on projects built around ICATIS (International Center for Appropriate Technology and Indigenous Sustainability), an international organization designed for optimizing sustainable energy sources and water expansion technologies to every citizen. They also worked on solar system lighting in certain buildings, including schools in Africa in order to allow the citizens to use the buildings past nightfall.

Logo of Engineers Without Borders USA“We are finishing up things in East Africa right now, and down the road we would like to travel to Haiti and South America. There are a lot of things we could do to help down there,” Athar said.

Although the plane tickets are provided by the college, the students participating in the trip need to cover all the rest of the expenses, such as visas, immunizations, food and boarding.

“We are all very open to any majors. We want people to be able to see the other people in this and think that it is pretty cool and they can do it themselves,” said Taylor Thanos, public relations and fundraising chair for the NIU chapter. “We want to let people know that they can have all these cool experiences and still make a difference – and they don’t need to be engineers.”