Society Spotlight: Engineers Without Borders

In General

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We caught up with Zach Rowland, President of newly affiliated society Engineers Without Borders, to find out more about the charity’s work and how you can get involved.

What is Engineers Without Borders?

Engineers Without Borders is a UK charity dedicated to facilitating human development through engineering. This aim is achieved by providing engineering expertise to partner charities, and encouraging better consideration of global responsibility in education. There is a national HQ in London that manages all international placements for professional engineers (amongst other programmes), whilst also providing support for student branches in the form of training and logistics advice.

Here in the Southampton branch we have run engineering design projects with a local charity, Tools For Self Reliance, whose work involves refurbishing tools from the UK to be sent to Africa. Our projects have included the beginnings of a design for a recycled-parts Arc Welder, as well as a pictorial Tool Maintenance Manual scheme for TFSR’s tool recipients in areas with poor English comprehension.

In addition to our work with TFSR, we are developing a slow sand water filter to use as a display piece when presenting on water scarcity and sanitation, which we are hoping to install on campus or elsewhere in Southampton upon completion.

We are also partnered with STEMNet to provide DBS checks and training for students in technology-based degrees, with the intention of running an outreach programme in schools next year.



How many members belong to the society?

Officially we have about 33 members.

When did the Engineers Without Borders start?

The society began forming at the start of the last academic year, before being officially affiliated with SUSU and EWB-UK in March this year.

What is the best part about being involved in the society?

I have found that as much as an engineering degree at Southampton may build a good technical knowledge for industry or academia, there is not enough focus on the human aspects of the subject. Engineers Without Borders gives its members a real appreciation of how their skills can be used to make a more positive impact on the world, and provides a pathway into third-sector or other socially conscientious work within the industry that might not otherwise be clear.

Why should students join?

EWB-UK branches are different from many other charitable societies in that we offer students a chance to become heavily involved in real, practical development work. For instance, we are currently in talks with the Argentinian equivalent of EWB-UK (ISF Argentina) to explore the possibility of running an international placement there for our members in 2017. So far this entire project has been organised by this year’s committee, and all of our contributions next year will continue to be made by members, including anyone being sent abroad on placement and all design contributions and fundraising.

An interesting fact about your society?

Every year we run a trip to the EWB national conference, United for Change, where we have the chance to network with other university branches and EWB staff. This is an excellent opportunity for the members and committee alike to learn from professionals with real experience, and meet other students who are as passionate about volunteering as they are.

What is one of the society’s biggest achievements to date?

We are very proud of our work with Tools For Self Reliance and collaborations with other societies, but as a new EWB branch I feel that just having sustained ourselves for an entire year and organising so many different projects is an achievement in itself. I am proud to say that we have reached a point of self-sustainability, and I hope that next year’s committee will continue to build on what we have started here.

Does your society require any equipment to take part?

Nope! Well, not yet. This may change next year as we have time over the summer to update branding and get some T-shirts and other gear made. Obviously anything we do in the University workshops requires some PPE but that usually just includes protective glasses which are already available in the workshop.

Is there a cost to be a member?

Again, not this year; however we may introduce a small fee to help finance certain projects next year (but only if necessary).

Upcoming events or meetings?

  • Our AGM will be held on 22nd April 2016 – look out for details on our Facebook page, coming soon.
  • We are also contributing to Friends of MSF’s Missing Maps Project in Southampton, and the next Mapathon for this will be on 26th April 2016. Exact details being posted soon on our Facebook group.

What is the best way for students to contact you?

You can like our Facebook page for general news and announcements, or join our Facebook group to find details of upcoming meetings and how you can get involved with the society. Otherwise our email us for general enquiries.

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