Organization gains national honors through global reach
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 00:03
Many student organizations have an impact on the campus, community, state and country. But when the A&M chapter of Engineers Without Borders built a Costa Rican pipeline for one of its international projects, the impact of the award-winning organization went global.
In eight years of existence, the organization’s A&M chapter has launched international projects in Costa Rica and Belize. In Costa Rica, it set out to improve the learning facilities and water system. As a result, a computer education center with bathrooms was constructed and completed in 2010 and a pipeline was built in 2012 to aid the Costa Rican water distribution system. The pipeline spanned one kilometer and helped improve the water supply of more than 100 households.
Jorge Bustamante, junior biological and agriculture engineering major and the vice president of Engineers Without Borders at A&M, said the organization had to overcome obstacles in its work in a foreign community.
“One of my main tasks has been creating a close relationship with the community which is critical for our projects to be sustainable,” Bustamante said. “It was very challenging because our time is limited and there are language and cultural barriers that need to be tackled to get the work done.”
Members of the organization monitor the community for new project opportunities that will improve the quality of living. After building the pipeline in Costa Rica, the group made a trip back to assess the project’s impact. They’re now working to install water storage tanks to alleviate a water shortage problem.
Reid Garcia, senior electrical engineering major and the A&M chapter’s president, said service trips have been a personally rewarding experience.
“I learned so much from that trip — how to think on my feet, how to adapt when things didn’t go as planned, how to be sensitive to other cultures and how to get past a language barrier,” Garcia said.
On top of receiving the award for Student Organization of the Year in 2011, the organization recently received recognition as EWB-USA’s Premier Chapter. The award was won against 250 other chapters nationwide.
“Receiving affirmation that what we are doing here is not only fulfilling our mission, but is doing so at top notch quality, is amazing,” Garcia said.
From starting with only one project in 2005 to launching multiple local and international projects since, the organization has made itself known. The officers have seen the progress.
“We went from a small group of students to over 80 active members and many other interested students,” Garcia said. “I have enjoyed watching the organization grow and progress to one of the best chapters in the nation.”
Students don’t have to be engineers to join and all levels of experience are welcome.
Antonio Delgado, senior agricultural systems management major and vice president of development, said engineers have the ability to use their knowledge and skills to create sustainable solutions to real world problems in these types of communities. He said he is confident that the work of the organization will continue.
“Given the high quality of people working with [the organization], I can say — without a doubt — that we will continue to change the world,” Delgado said. “We will unwaveringly maintain this high level of quality that we have set out for ourselves and we will continue to improve and grow so that we can make a difference.”