Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Lafayette’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) has been chosen as a showcase team to attend the 2007 National Idea to Product Competition for Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) and Social Entrepreneurship at Princeton University March 24.

Civil engineering major Debra Perrone ’08 (Fair Lawn, N.J.) and mechanical engineering major Lori Gonzalez ’09 (Bronx, N.Y.) will represent Lafayette at the Princeton competition.

Last year, EWB received national media exposure for being one of six college and university teams from across the nation to be awarded a $75,000 grant through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.

“EPICS is an award-winning entrepreneurial service-learning effort started at Purdue University and is currently at several other colleges. These colleges compete at this annual event for funds to further develop their solutions. We are not allowed to compete because we do not have a chapter [of EPICS] here at campus. Though, every year EPICS invites three such non-competing schools to present. We are one of those three this year,” explains Sharon Jones, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and chair of A.B. engineering.

“The students who attend and then inform the rest of the chapter will get to see entrepreneurship applied to a variety of service-learning projects spanning all engineering disciplines. Those competing schools represent the best from their campuses. The hope of EPICS is to create networking opportunities for such students.”

Perrone and Gonzalez will showcase the overall process the chapter uses to develop infrastructure solutions for rural villages in developing countries.

EWB’s main project for the last several years has been providing about 1,000 people in Lagunitas and La Fortuna, two rural villages in the Yoro district of central Honduras, with clean drinking water. The team is designing and constructing clean water distribution systems and irrigation in the villages, which have never had access to safe drinking water. Professors and student teams have taken numerous trips to the work site since the project began. EWB currently has a membership of about 25 students.

Along with Jones, David Brandes, associate professor and acting head of civil and environmental engineering; Michael Jordan, assistant professor of foreign languages and literature; Bonnie Winfield, director of the Landis Community Outreach Center; and Michael Benitez, director of intercultural development, are the team’s advisers.

Perrone has been the technical leader of EWB since the beginning of the school year.

“I think students should get involved in order to understand three things: sustainable development education, experiencing developing countries and life outside the United States, and the practical use of engineering applications and the hands-on learning experience,” she says.

Jones believes students need the chance to get involved, and projects outside the classroom give them a broader perspective on the importance of engineering to society.

“Engineering is about service to society via technological devices and processes,” she says. “Often such ‘service’ is removed from the classroom environment where we must focus on rigorous theory and methods. The more chances to participate in real projects, the better for students. These opportunities also get different majors to work together with the common goal of service, and this is particularly important as the solutions to the toughest problems will typically involve cross-disciplinary teams.”

Perrone believes Lafayette creates a positive environment for EWB.

“The professors are extremely helpful and continually advise us and set us in the right directions. Students are really excited about projects and the overall group has so much fun working on the projects, which is really important,” she says.

Last year, Perrone and Marquis Scholar Margaret Garcia ’07 (Stamford, Conn.) presented the Honduras project at the fifth annual American Society for Engineering Education Global Colloquium held in Brazil.

Garcia, who is the chapter leader of EWB, Jones, and Brandes coauthored the paper, titled “Facilitating an undergraduate service-learning effort to provide sustainable rural infrastructure in developing countries.” The paper analyzed EWB’s experiences in Honduras, discussed the challenges of service learning projects, and suggested management strategies to make them sustainable.

Perrone believes her EWB experiences have taught her valuable lessons.

“Through EWB, I’ve learned that teamwork is so important and collaborating with other students and teachers is necessary. I’ve also learned that sometimes my solution to a problem would not be the best answer; engineering involves working to meet the people’s needs and incorporating environmental and political issues,” she says.

Categorized in: Academic News