Fairfield’s School of Engineering has been awarded a $40,000 grant from Dutch technical company ASML to establish a campus chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

The grant, to be provided in yearly increments of $8,000 over a period of five years, will be put toward travel fees for students journeying to and from their international project sites, according to Dr. Bruce Berdanier, dean of the School of Engineering.

“What ASML’s money has done is allowed us to set up the basic chapter,” Berdanier said.
“We know at least four students can travel each year.”

EWB is a nonprofit organization that partners with struggling communities in 47 developing countries around the world. After assessing the needs of a community, EWB volunteers design and implement infrastructures needed to improve the quality of life of individuals within the community.

According to Berdanier, who plans to act as the organization’s faculty advisor, Fairfield has been unofficially affiliated with the organization for the past two years, partnering with students in South Dakota State University’s EWB chapter to develop a water treatment facility for a university in rural Bolivia.

“Now we’ll have our own formal organization, and we’ll keep working on these projects for right now,” said Berdanier of the Bolivia project. “To complete all the water treatment work there, it’s probably going to take us a couple more years,” he added.

Unlike other international service trips that are popular on campus, EWB projects cannot be completed in a single trip.

“If you get involved with water development projects in developing countries, you find that a lot of people are doing work, but if you go back in a couple of years you find that about 60 percent of them aren’t working,” Berdanier explained.

To ensure the long-term success of projects, EWB requires that chapters make a minimum five-year commitment to a community, according to Berdanier.

Within this period, volunteers make several trips to their project sites, including an initial visit to a community to assess its specific needs, a second trip to implement their designs, and a third trip to ensure that the systems are still operating successfully.

Design and construction is only one aspect of the work that EWB does in developing communities. “Every time that we travel we prepare an education program for the students in Bolivia so we do something to teach them about treating water or about health issues,” Berdanier said.

Berdanier was quick to assure that Fairfield’s EWB chapter would be open to all students, with or without engineering backgrounds. “We obviously have to be able to do engineering designs but just because you’re not an engineer doesn’t mean that you can’t travel with us and help build things,” he said. Non-engineers could also take part in the chapter by helping with marketing and fundraising for future projects, according to Berdanier.

Yet according to Berdanier, the sum provided by ASML is only a fraction of what the School of Engineering will need to keep the chapter operational.

“To do this whole thing that we want to do at the level that we want to do it, we really need somewhere between $80,000-$100,000 over the next five years,” said Berdanier. “We will keep working on trying to get additional funds for more students to participate,” he added.

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