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UTSA student chapter of Engineers Without Borders

Engineers Without Borders: UTSA students to build Bolivia clinic

By Lynn Gosnell
Special Projects Writer

(June 26, 2009)--The UTSA student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a registered student organization, is raising funds for its first international, humanitarian project.

Engineers Without Borders is a nonprofit organization that designs and implements sustainable engineering projects worldwide. The national organization comprises 300 student and professional chapters active in 47 countries. A group of UTSA students formed a student chapter in 2007.

After a year of organizational groundwork (and a false start on a project in the town of La Ligilla, Mexico, that had to be put on hold because of escalating violence in the region), EWB-UTSA has established a partnership with the town of San Lorenzo, Bolivia, to "adopt" an engineering project.

Located in a largely rural area of southern Bolivia -- a country with one of the highest infant mortality rates in South America -- San Lorenzo (pop. 7,100) is seeking improvements to its only medical clinic, which has gone years without updates and is in poor condition.

"The project entails updating and helping them build a new health clinic to serve their growing community," said EWB-UTSA president Krista Paredes, a senior civil engineering major. More than a dozen students participate in the UTSA chapter.

The cost of each EWB project is shared by the community in which the project takes place and the chapter adopting the project. The town of San Lorenzo has already set aside $10,000 of an estimated $30,000 tally. The UTSA chapter must raise the remaining $20,000.

To raise monies, Paredes and other students have been holding small fundraisers on campus, and they also are planning a fundraising car wash and events that the community can participate in. The student engineers also have picked up sponsorships from engineering firms Pape-Dawson, Bain Medina Bain, and Lockheed, Andrews and Newnam.

>> UTSA's Engineers Without Borders chapter will hold a fundraising car wash from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 11, at the Zip-In Car Wash, 4514 DeZavala Rd. The cost for a full detailed car wash will be $15. All proceeds will go toward funding a pre-assessment trip to Bolivia.

"EWB allows the students to learn applicable engineering skills and use what they learn in the classroom through working on projects in developing countries such as water treatment or building structures," says faculty adviser Heather Shipley, assistant professor of civil engineering who consulted with Engineers Without Borders while studying at Rice University.

With just $500 in their coffers for this project, the group has a ways to go to raise the $3,000-$4,000 needed for the pre-assessment trip, which is the first step in the project.

This initial site visit should last three or four days and will be led by civil engineering student Albert Garcia, who is serving as project manager. Another faculty adviser, Manuel Diaz, a structural engineer, is planning to attend, along with a health care professional.

Based on their site visit, the UTSA chapter will submit a report to the national chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Once given the go-ahead by the national group, UTSA can begin the project as early as December 2009.

>> For updates on UTSA fundraisers, visit the Engineers Without Borders Web site. To learn more about supporting the work of UTSA's Engineers Without Borders chapter, e-mail ewb.utsa@gmail.com.

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