Saturday, November 7, at the chipper hour of 5:30 am, members of Rensselaer’s Engineers Without Borders Chapter loaded into two cars and drove to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where the Northeast Regional Conference would take place. In attendance was Project Leader and mechanical engineering major Mike Kubista ’17, Vice President and civil engineering major Alison Luongo ’17, Professional Liaison and materials science and engineering major Tom Rebbecchi ’16, secretary and biomedical engineering major Kyra Dauwalder ’17, treasurer and chemical engineering major Elizabeth Kwon ’18, fundraising coordinator and electrical engineering major Frank Sokolowski ’18, membership coordinator and mechanical engineering and design innovation and society major Tim Andrews ’18, mechanical engineering major Jonathan Blumers ’17, environmental engineering major Paige Shovelton ’19, and chemical engineering major Elisabeth Ryan ’19.
The event began with a continental breakfast and led into a general body address which consisted of welcomes and presentations by noteworthy speakers. These speakers focused on the purpose of EWB and its flourishing impact in the world today. EWB’s mode of operation is focusing on a community in a developing country, determining what can be changed to improve the lives of the people in the community, and implementing solutions through engineering projects which members of the community partake in and eventually take over. The different chapters across the nation have individual projects that they maintain for years, building a strong connection with the people. There are currently over 660 projects taking place in 45 different countries. These development projects center around water supply, civil works projects, sanitation, agriculture, energy sources, and the building and maintaining of structures. The most in-demand of these is a clean water supply. In regions of sub-Saharan Africa, water is scarce and the water that is present is often contaminated. Nearly 70 percent of these development projects focus on providing communities with clean drinking water. RPI’s chapter is among that percentage.
The general body presentations were periodic throughout the weekend and were counterbalanced with what they dubbed “break-out sessions.” Break-out sessions were smaller-sized lectures and workshops with a variety of options going into greater detail over the topics mentioned above. Some covered the managing portion of EWB: fundraising, event planning, and recruitment. Most were lectures about the different solutions EWB has made, and can make in the future. Others displayed the innovative ideas and projects of chapters throughout the region, one of which was presented on Sunday by Rebbecchi and Luongo. Their presentation informed attendees of the conference about RPI EWB’s project in Panama. In brief, for several years, RPI EWB has been returning every January to the community of Isla Popa II to build and maintain a rain water harvesting system that provides the community with water. They will return again this coming January to continue improving it.
Personally, the members of RPI EWB were impressed by the speakers, the facilities, and the conference in general. “I would say that NERC was a really enjoyable and educational experience. It was great being able to learn about what other chapters are doing and how they operate. I think this will allow our officers and members to greatly improve our chapter and its effectiveness, both locally and in our projects abroad,” said Blumers. “I thought it was great to meet the staff of EWB-USA headquarters who advise all chapters on their proposed designs and to learn more about how they manage and guide the many chapters across the country,” said Kubista. Overall, it was an educational experience and a great opportunity to meet with different members of the EWB community who are making strides in the successful development of communities around the globe. Those interested in making a difference, travelling, or working with people are welcome in EWB.