The 2018 Engineers Without Borders National Conference was held in San Francisco, CA from November 6-8th. It brought together over 500 professionals and students from across the United States to address the theme of ‘Engineers Unlock Potential’.
Attendance at the conference allowed chapters to build relationships with other chapters, potential mentors, regional boards and EWB-USA staff. Each can serve as an invaluable resource, for instance chapters working in the same country can exchange past experiences and local contacts to help prepare for an upcoming trip. NY Professionals’ presence at the conference helped build these connections and links with the umbrella organization, i.e. EWB-USA as well as showcase our projects in front of the EWB audience at large.
Our chapter members May ElKhattab, Patrick Brennan and Ethan Cotton presented at the conference about the implementation of a 12m x 12m x 8m maize storage facility in Rubaya, Rwanda. The presentation delved into specifics of construction management, design changes, material procurement and labor management. The members took on a retrospective approach and shared lessons learned along the way, something that the rest of the EWB community can benefit from as construction is a common link between all EWB projects whether it is a structural project like a storage facility or a water project like a distribution pipeline.
The conference agenda spanned over a myriad of topics ranging from remote implementation of projects using EWB in-country offices to developing master plans for EWB projects. To relay the breadth of topics covered, here are some session highlights from the conference:
● Using drones to conduct topographical surveys and land assessment
● Utilizing GIS tools to conduct fracture trace analysis for well location selection
● Sizing submersible pumps and solar panels for drinking water systems in remote areas
● Applying asset management principles to empower local in-country organizations for utility development
● Providing disaster response and recovery efforts in Dominica after 2017 hurricane
The full agenda for the conference can be accessed here and the presentations will be made available on Volunteer Village for anyone who wants to learn more about a specific topic.
Above all, the conference catered to the EWB spirit of changing the world for better; this resonated across the keynote address, breakout sessions and all formal plus informal discussions at the conference. The three days left members inspired and prepared with the right resources to take on the next curve ball that is thrown at them. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference with hopes that NY Professionals will have even more to share with the EWB community next year.
The sixth and final week of implementation in Rubaya came by in no time, at least for us – the EWB members sitting here in NY. For the six travelling members, it certainly has been a whirlwind as not only did they cross several time zones, they worked and dedicated themselves for two weeks in an immensely different work environment and had to get back to their jobs in NY right after. This probably has been exhausting for them but I am positive that each one of them has gained an experience they will cherish forever.
Now, before we see the final structure from the implementation trip, it is important for all of us to get an understanding of what happened during the final week which started with erecting the three trusses as shown below.
Evram and Alex started off the fifth week of implementation in Rubaya and their first week of adjusting to a new lifestyle. Getting used to Rubayan lifestyle was expected to be difficult but for team 3 it was not only about getting on board with new living standards quick, they also had to get working right away and pick up on everything that had been going on for over 4 weeks by now.
Our travelling team got to work and interact with a lot of cool Rubayans; they interviewed a few of them for us to get to know better. This post will highlight two people in particular, Dusttimimana Aimable and Orienne Nikuze.
At the crux of this project’s success will be how well Goodneighbors members are able to run the co-op and get a net positive turnover from the added facility. For that reason, Team 2 met with Emmanuel, the co-op president, other GN committee members, and some community members for further discussion about the purpose of the storage facility and other pending issues during construction. This discussion was organized to first align each members’ goals with the rest of Goodneighbors and then with EWB-Rubaya team’s goals to ensure that everyone is on the same page. May and Ethan asked thoughtful questions to gain insight from GN members on their hopes and aspirations from the project and potential future projects that EWB-NY can possibly help with.
Being an EWB Volunteer in any country is a unique experience that cannot be mimicked with any amount of careful planning. One such experience for our team was to celebrate International Women’s Day with the Rubayan community. The community members gathered in Rubaya’s main field where the Rubayan women celebrated with traditional dance and music. The event was also attended by the mayor who delivered a speech addressing the community members and especially the women of Rubaya.
During the second week of construction, the team poured all column and strip footings, built formwork for column lifts and set up scaffolding. From the technical end, everything is going as scheduled and the team has been doing a terrific job of problem solving across a Whatsapp group. A lot of it has been possible because of Mira and Patrick’s ability to address problems on the site like material delivery issues and misinterpretation of CMU block design. In addition, the efforts of team members here in NY to provide structural consulting and design specs to the travelling members as they run into cement mix and other questions has been vital for construction to proceed.
Feature Photo: Finished footing (left) and start of scaffolding (right)
Our work in the community would be physically impossible were it not for our smart, resourceful, and hard-working interns, Parfait and Hervé. Get to know them a little better:
Feature Photo: Parfait (left) and Hervé (right) on the construction site