Engineers Without Borders
The MIT chapter of Engineers Without Borders has been in existence since Fall of 2006, but our first project was adopted in Fall of 2008. The goal of EWB-MIT is to create opportunities for the MIT community to get involved with community level international development projects. We are introducing a new approach to international development at MIT. Rather than focusing on developing new technologies, EWB focuses on building a capacity building relationship with a community. A typical relationship with a community can be 4-5 years, at the end of which it is hoped that a community can be self-sustaining, and can continue their development on their own.
As one of the world's leading institutions of engineering design and technological advancements, MIT has much to offer in support of international development. MIT is aligned to serve as a strong ally of development organizations that seek to improve the quality of life of people in developing communities. Millions of people live their lives without basic necessities such as clean drinking water; things we take for granted everyday. Oftentimes projects that would vastly improve the quality of life in many remote areas are far more difficult and complex to carry out than they would be in the developed world. The materials and funds needed are not readily available and no one is equipped with the engineering knowledge necessary to pull off a project. Thus, these are the issues that EWB-MIT is here to face and solve!
We have three main projects that we are working on located in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi.
The Engeye Health Clinic is located in the town of Ddegeya southwest of the capitol, Kampala, in southern Uganda. Uganda is recovering from decades of civil war, yet still struggles with violent outbreaks from the Lord's Resistance Army. In 2007, the Engeye Clinic opened its doors to aid a community in desperate need of basic healthcare. The clinic was founded after American medical students discovered a village that lacked drinking water, electricity, and healthcare. Local Ugandan healthcare workers staff the clinic full-time. In 2008, the Engeye staff contacted EWB and a partnership with EWB-MIT was formed.
The EWB MIT water team has worked to improve the quality and quantity of water in Ddegeya. Initially our focus was on water purification and we introduced sand filtration and solar water purification (SODIS) to the community. In addition, we brought both of the methods to our community partner, the Engeye Health Clinic, and supplied them with a sand filter. However, sand is hard to come by in Ddegeya and this option was not viable for the community at large. To address quantity needs, the team built a 10,000L rainwater harvesting tank in a part of the village far from the water source. This tank supplies one portion of the village with water for half of the year.
This semester the water team is focusing on household rainwater harvesting and water purification. In the fall semester we worked on evaluating methods to increase accessibility to water. We determined household rainwater catchment to be the best option because the community prefers household level systems and because rainwater systems are widely accepted. In addition, the small scale rainwater system will be more affordable and manageable for families. They are also easier to spread than large brick tanks. EWB is planning a series of water purification workshops for its trip this summer. The focus of these sessions will be SODIS, chlorine disinfection and safe water storage. We are working on developing a curriculum that will not only convince people that these methods work but also that they are better than boiling. In addition, further testing will be done on SODIS in conjunction with the energy team to find the most effective set up for Ddegeya.
This summer the travel team will also gather more hydrological data and talk the community about the possibility of more wells. Similarly, the team will gather information about covering the open pond that is one of the main water supplies. Future water team projects will be to further increase rainwater harvesting, develop wells and springboxes.
In the past, the EWB Energy Team works on energy related projects with the Ddegeya Village and the Engeye Health Clinic. In the summer of 2010, we designed and installed a 1.4kW solar panel system at the clinic that was graciously donated by BP. We are currently looking into energy usage at the household level of the village. Ongoing projects that we are currently working on on-campus include charcoal production out of agricultural waste, SODIS water purification and mechanical lighting, along with the solar panel maintenance and follow-up.
Our goal is to design and construct a cost-effective, scalable shower system for use in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. With this project, Showergy addresses both sanitation and safety. Requiring no electricity or connection to the water grid, Showergy provides the local community – especially women and children – with a safe, enclosed, and clean shower environment.
We worked with the Amusha Youth Organization in Kwa Njenga, Nairobi to start a business selling our shower, which was dubbed the Eco-Shower. We were able to source all the materials locally and start building the showers in the Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum within our first week in Nairobi. The Amusha team quickly mastered the technical design and began using their own ideas to make improvements. We installed two showers initially for pilot testing, and all of the team members tried out the shower installed in a team member's home. After some modifications to the shower structure as suggested by feedback from the community, we branded the shower and started marketing the product to individual households and representatives from community organizations. Our other on-site partner, Sanergy, provided some suggestions for Sanergy latrine operators to target with the offer of showers to go along with their toilets. We installed four showers with the improved structure in different locations. Two were installed at another youth group's center, one is at a Sanergy latrine operator's place in Kwa Reuben for a one-week trial, and the other is at Amusha's biocenter for marketing. The Amusha team is working to meet our sales goal of five showers per month.
The information is coming soon.