Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Student Spotlight:Engineers Without Borders




Engineering is often looked at as a daunting and unapproachable discipline filled with introverts and geeks. It is, however, quite the opposite. Engineering is a practical and exciting field loaded with out going people looking to tackle the problems facing our world. I admit, I did not always feel this way, but after having the opportunity to travel with Engineers Without Borders to Cameroon this past winter break, the sentiment manifested itself.

My name is Sophia Stylianos, and I am a sophomore at Penn studying Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. I have lots of interests and just recently diagnosed myself as ‘addicted to extra curricular activities’– I play on the club soccer team, I take part in Greek Life at Penn, I work in the machine shop, and I’m on the Board for AWE. Though, if I had to choose one organization for which I am the most passionate, it would have to be Penn’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Engineers Without Borders is a non-profit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life through sustainable projects. Penn’s chapter has completed implementation projects in Terreritos, Honduras; Kob, Cameroon; and Gundom, Cameroon. Our chapter has also worked with organizations and conducted research in West Bengal, India; Ghana; Guatemala; and Pearlington, MS. Locally, we teach high school students about Biodiesel and Alternative Energy at Saul High School and Science Leadership Academy, both located right here in Philly.

Penn EWB’s most recent undertaking was a sanitation project on Mbengwi, Cameroon. I was lucky enough to be apart of the implementation team for this project in which we partneded with a local NGO, MQLIF, and built latrines at two primary schools, GPS Mbengwi and GS Njinenong. These latrines were built to stop contamination of ground water and give the children and faculty a clean and safe place to use the bathroom while at school. Before the latrines, often times when children needed to relieve themselves, they were told to simply hold it, or just go on the side of the mountain in which the school was located. Some children, especially young women, would have to skip school for this reason. We also had a chance to organize a community health day where Health Club representatives from dozens of local primary and high schools came together the discuss pertinent health issues facing their region.

I cannot begin to describe everything I learned and felt on my trip with EWB. If I did, you would be reading for days. What I can fit into the space of this blog is that traveling with EWB over winter break was easily the coolest and most rewarding thing I've ever done. And I'm not saying "rewarding" in the whole "look at us, we're helping people" kind of way. I mean it in that I probably learned more about the world, development, engineering, foreign culture, and myself during those 10-12 days on the ground in Cameroon than I have during my 14+ years of formal education.

Our next project is going to take place in San Juan de la Laguna, Guatemala located on the shores of Lake Atitlán. We hope to implement an irrigation system to help farmers decontaminate and transport the water supply for their crops. One other student leader and I are about to head out on the assessment trip with our mentors on Friday, so I hope to write back soon with updates on our next trip!

5 comments:

  1. Hi,

    We are from a Print magazine called student sphere, it is oriented towards engineering college students. We would like to publish your blog post in our social responsibility section.
    Let us know if it is ok with you. Poojas@studentsphere.in

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