Engineers Without Borders Organization Works Toward Living Out the Lasallian Values


Many organizations at Manhattan College work towards living out the five core Lasallian principles, and MC’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders is no exception.

EWB is a national organization founded in 2002 by professor Bernard Amadei, Ph.D, of the University of Colorado Boulder. Amadei assessed the need for a reliable water supply system in a Belizean jungle village, and along with 14 students installed a working water supply system, starting the organization.

Since then, Engineers Without Borders has grown exponentially, with 16,820 members working on 698 different projects worldwide, all to empower disadvantaged communities to achieve basic human needs. These projects include constructing buildings, bridges and other structures that help underprivileged people receive necessary resources.

Manhattan College first established its own chapter of the organization in 2011, allowing students to work towards a major objective of the School of Engineering, a commitment to engineering as a service-to-humanity profession.

One year later, in 2012, the chapter’s application was accepted and they were awarded a project in Mbiribua, Cameroon.

Julianna Widlund, EWB’s vice president said, “There is a village in Cameroon that is in need of a pedestrian footbridge. During the rainy season the river gets too high and it becomes dangerous to even try and cross the river. Their only form of trade, however, is across that river, so if they cannot cross it they cannot sustain economic balance. Our goal is to raise money to implement this footbridge.”

In addition to working on the project on campus, students were also able to travel to Cameroon in March 2014 for an assessment trip.

“During this trip, we determined that is feasible to construct the bridge. Members of our chapter surveyed the proposed site and performed a preliminary geotechnical investigation. The students that traveled were: David Pecorini (Civil Engineering BS ‘13 and MS ‘15), Carolyn Braizer (Civil Engineering BS ‘14), and Anita Hot (Chemical Engineering BS ‘15 and MS ‘17). Additionally, our professional mentor, Pat Arnett (a Principal at Silman, a structural engineering firm in NYC), traveled with them,” said civil and environmental engineering professor Daniel Hochstein, Ph.D.

The student organization is continuing to work towards their goal of building the bridge despite a minor setback after a switch in club administrators.

In addition to administrational issues, secretary Brianna Gallo said, “I believe it’s hard to get students interested and involved in a project that they may not see get constructed while they are still attending MC.”

No matter the circumstances, Engineers Without Borders is not giving up on helping the residents of Cameroon. Right now, the organization is putting a great amount of effort into fundraising and is working with Silman, an engineering firm, in order to work on the bridge’s design.

“I think it is also important to note that this entire project is funded by money that the students raise,” said Daniel Hochstein, Ph.D. “Not only do they have to raise money for the travel costs, but they need to raise the money to construct the bridge. This includes all of the materials and labor.”

Engineers Without Borders encourages students of all majors and talents to get involved, even if they are not civil engineers. There are many different ways in which students can help, and those interested can email to get started.

Gallo said, “The organization truly has no borders; we reach out and find communities that are in need and attempt to improve their lives with the projects that we work on.”

Engineers Without Borders completes all of these projects with respect for all people, concern for the poor and social justice, in true Lasallian spirit.