For almost a decade, universities from across the United States have participated in thousands of trips to locations around the world to help improve low-income communities, whether it be through development, medical and health, or social advocacy.
Northern Illinois University’s Engineers Without Borders chapter has been in partnership with two organizations in both Mexico and Nyegina, Tanzania building sustainable and easy-to-manage appliances.
NIU’s EWB is entering its last year in a 5 year contract with Nyegina Secondary School, located in a village about an hour from the Kenya Tanzania border. Here, their first project was to install a solar lighting system to help supply cheap electricity to 6 classrooms and the library.
Their next project is focused on the kitchen. It includes designing a ‘lion stove’ which will use wood more efficiently to lower costs for the school as well as a solar water heater. These three additions to the school are important not only because they utilize a renewable energy source but because they allow the school to keep their expenses down. The less money they have to spend on basic lighting and cooking, the less children will have to pay to attend.
In Mexico, with support and guidance from iCatis (International Centers for Appropriate Technology and Indigenous Sustainability), students have been working to improve the water filtration system in remote villages.
Throughout their experimentation, these young engineers must keep in mind who they are designing these systems for. What works in the developed world cannot be sustained with the limited resources in developing countries. The villagers must be well trained and educated before students leave so that they understand how to repair appliances if they break and make improvements themselves if necessary.
– Deena Dulgerian