Student recap: Engineers without Borders conference
Students from the Ohio State University chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB) traveled to the national conference for EWB USA in Pittsburgh, PA in November 2019. This is known as EWB-USA's premier annual event featuring “dynamic discussions with industry leaders, educational opportunities about complex global challenges that engineers can solve, and networking with the people driving the engineering sector's socially minded future”. The conference consisted mostly of moderated presentations given by a variety of chapters and EWB officials discussing subjects ranging from prescribed best practices to reflections on experienced issues.
This is the first time in 5 years EWB at Ohio State was able to go to the national conference and brought the largest group to date, with 10 student members traveling. Four of these students were undergraduate Industrial and Systems Engineering students, whom were lucky to be sponsored by the department.
Many of the opportunities available at this conference appealed to the driven students who attended. A significant motivating factor for conference attendance was a desire to more closely acquaint members with how the overarching organization functioned to affect positive change on a global scale. The conference was an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals outside of Ohio State and learn from the techniques and practices of other student and professional chapters from around the country. Some of the most successful people from the field of humanitarian engineering were there to share their experience with up and coming students.
Being a newer chapter allowed EWB at Ohio State to learn from other chapters that have existed for twice as long or manage five international projects as opposed to only one. The Ohio State chapter obtained ideas on how to improve operationally and how to apply knowledge from our education or network. During one keynote, students learned to identify six sigma tools that the chapter was already being used in international projects. The conference also educated students interested higher education or a career in humanitarian engineering. Some learned more about the importance of education with the success of humanitarian engineering. Engineers Without Borders USA shared their new goals of educating more of their volunteers. They have new online learning modules similar to Khan Academy, but for humanitarian engineering. One of the most exciting discussions for a student was aimed at decoupling the white savior complex from the type of humanitarian aid provided by chapters such as ours. Finally, there were chances to connect with companies interested in this student demographic to discuss future internship or employment opportunities.
Dante, a fourth year ISE student, spoke on the conference: “We had a chance to be connected to the larger EWB community. I know I was elated to see how well everyone got along and I think that the experience helped to solidify the officers and really expand the perspective of our newer members. We have been pushing opportunities to bring our chapter closer together and this conference did exactly that.”
Margaret Miles, another ISE major and the OSU student chapter President, was also able to speak at a breakout session during the conference on her own chapter. She presented on her chapter’s marketing success and the importance of having a forefront focus on public relations and media, especially since there tends to be a lack of that in most engineering disciplines. “It was incredibly inspiring to hear the feedback and ideas from everyone in the room at my session,” Miles said. “I gained copious amounts of knowledge for our international development project in the Gambia is and I am so grateful to have an opportunity during my colligate career to attend such an incredible event.”