More than 140 students, professionals, and academics from throughout the Southeast flocked to Georgia Tech for the Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) Regional Conference, held October 4-6.
Hosted by the Georgia Tech chapter of the organization, the three-day event kicked off with a beautiful reception atop the Clough Student Learning Commons on Friday night. There, attendees had an opportunity to network before jumping into two days of workshops and lectures.
"It's great to see all of the different chapters, and to find out what they are doing," said Georgia Tech environmental engineering student (and EWB member) Malin Dartnell. "Especially the professional chapters, because they make you realize that there's a way to stay involved after you graduate."
Dartnell and GT-EWB Chapter President Lily Ponitz spent Friday night talking with their peers from different chapters of the organization, which annually matches student and professional engineers with appropriate projects throughout the developing world. They also had the opportunity to meet with Kathy J. Caldwell, the former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) who traveled from Gainesville, Florida to attend the conference.
"It's always a great opportunity to meet with up-and-coming engineers," said Caldwell.
In the past year, the GT-EWB chapter has sent crews to Cameroon, Nicaragua, and the Navajo Nation, among other locales. The EWB teams have worked with local organizations in those places to implement needed and sustainable engineering solutions to common problems like air pollution and unsafe drinking water.
The vigor and success of the Georgia Tech Chapter of EWB attracted the interest of some newly launched chapters of EWB, like one from Kingsport, TN. The professional chapater, composed entirely of recent college graduates, attended the conference to gain a more seasoned perspective on their goals.
"I was always interested in doing this sort of work, but we didn't have an active chapter at my school," said Lauren Johnson, a chemical engineer working with the Eastman company. "We're going to apply [to EWB-USA] for a project in the Dominican Republic, to help them work on flood mitigation issues."
"I've been to developing countries before, but not as a working engineer," said Lane Daly, also a working chemical engineer. "Meeting other chapters, like Georgia Tech's, that have been successful will be a great help."
The conference also served as a great opportunity for incoming freshman, Anna Harrison, to establish herself in the Georgia Tech community. While welcoming visitors at the reception, Harrison shared her thoughts on her brief, but intense, association with EWB.
"I wanted to get involved in service work when I came to Georgia Tech," said the Douglasville biomedical engineering major. "And, since I joined EWB, I've gotten thrown into a great project where I'm helping to organize a dinner to support a project in Uganda. It's great."