A "Green" Experience at the EWB International Conference

posted Jun 14, 2009, 6:04 PM by MA/RI State Rep NER Catherine McManus   [ updated Jun 14, 2009, 7:27 PM by Regional Administrator NER Lisa Ponce ]


A “Green” experience at the EWB International Conference

By Elissa Mueller
Elissa Mueller – Boston University Student Chapter



As a freshman and someone new to Engineers without Borders, the international conference was a great opportunity for me to learn about the organization, and to interact with other university and professional chapters.  I found that the most interesting part of the conference for me was the emphasis placed on examining trends in student interest in Engineering and the growing popularity of Engineers Without Borders that has led many universities to incorporate into their engineering curriculums the goals and educational aspects of community development that members of Engineers Without Borders use and need to carry out successful projects. Among these universities are James Madison and Michigan Tech, which have developed very different methods of transforming the engineering curriculum to include these necessary aspects of community education that future engineers will undoubtedly need. There is growing interest in green technology development, as well as sustainable international development, and the new programs being developed allow students to pursue these interests while still getting the necessary core engineering classes.
Businesses and companies are also coming to notice that on its own, the traditional curriculum and role of the engineer is not effectively going to help to stimulate a global, sustainable economy because many of the technologies developed are expensive and/or targeted at developed countries. New advances in clean energy are currently not available to developing countries, for example, and these countries are left to continue to use fossil fuels and to develop along the same paths taken by other countries; this not only causes problems for the developing countries themselves, but it further depletes fossil fuel resources and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. This is only one of many examples that benefit from the transition away from traditional engineering in favor of an approach that encompasses global development, economics and sustainability. Businesses are beginning to look for engineers that understand global economics and even searching out engineers who have had international experience, whether through Engineers Without Borders or another program.
As engineers, we also benefit from this transition; none of the technical education is lost, but we also gain a better understanding that, while a project itself is governed by the laws of physics taught by a traditional degree, the country’s economy, the people, and therefore the success of a project is not. The transformation of curriculum and workplace described in the lectures will allow us to be able to understand what is needed to supply developing countries with affordable, sustainable technology.
Elissa Mueller is one of four Northeast Regional Scholarship winners for EWB International Spring 2009 Conference.