UC Riverside’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), an organization that creates and builds human needs projects in third-world countries, is planning to travel over the summer to Ukwega, Tanzania to build water pumps for the local school and its community. Ukwega is a small community in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands with a population of around 12,100 people.
“We are raising money to fly out a couple of our teammates to Tanzania and help the communities to install (the water pumps). We’re mostly doing the engineering, while letting the people build and install the pumps to let the community gain a sense of pride,” said Vijaypriya Ganesan, president of the UCR EWB chapter. The club is building one small water pump near the Ukwega community, where it will draw water out from the Lukosi River, a small river that bridges out from multiple rivers that are from the sea. The water is heavily polluted from poorly treated sewage, chemical discharge and oil spills so the club is working to also build multiple filters to clear out the bacteria before consumption.
Ganesan also mentioned that this chapter works with other schools, particularly the UCLA chapter. The UCLA professional chapter provides the UCR chapter guidance on how they could find new projects to work on while receiving advice from their previous experiences and projects. As Ganesan puts it, “we’re collaborating with them in a way where they’re mentoring us.” The club had chosen the project after learning that the UCLA chapter was doing a project near Ukwega; the UCLA EWB representative mentioned how an adjacent high school was looking for a water pump. UCLA offered the UCR chapter this project in order to focus on another project.
Ganesan said they would have been solely working on the Costa Rica biogas project, another program EWB has started, if it were not for the UCLA chapter offering the water pump project. The biogas project involves implementing biodigestor tanks, which provide clean fuel for its rural inhabitants, without creating any harmful emissions, while providing a source of fertilizer for farmers to utilize during cultivation.
The club fundraises to support the club’s budget for sending out their members to these countries. Apart from that, however, the club is mainly involved with building and designing the plans and infrastructure for their projects. They receive most of their advice from the UCLA chapter as well as other engineering professors such as Dr. Kawai Tam, their advisor who is also part of the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering. Ganesan explains how Tam has “been helping out with some of the calculations and has been really helpful in case (they) have any questions.”
In addition to building the water pumps, EWB holds a mentorship program with Ukwega’s secondary school. This program was made for students in that community to understand the world around them by providing resources to broaden their perspectives of the outside world with education and research.
The chapter has been involved with many projects in the past, with one that includes building an aqueduct water system in Guatemala. As of now, the club is working with writing the Costa Rica biogas proposal to be sent to government representatives in conjunction to their current water pump project.