Engineers Without Borders student chapter earns honor

Students attending the Midwest Regional Conference were, from left: Austin Costello, Jared Beyersdorf, Eric Berglund, Keith Ozanne, Liz Schmidt, Allison Speicher, Paul Smith, Brett Sallach, Amanda Dunekacke, Phil Blankenau, Adam Gilbert and Ben Pavlik.

Nebraska's Engineers Without Borders student chapter was named the 2013 EWB-USA Regional Premier Chapter at the Midwest Regional Conference in Lawrence, Kan., last month.

The student chapter is made up of engineering students in programs at both Lincoln and Omaha; students in other majors are also welcome. The chapter formed in 2008, making it relatively new among 225 national chapters, according to faculty co-adviser Libby Jones, associate professor of civil engineering.

A Nebraska professional chapter of EWB occasionally joins the students for learning activities, though each chapter has different projects.

The student chapter entered a five-year commitment with Kianjavato, Madagascar, which is a remote community in the African island nation’s interior where Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo operates a field station near a threatened ecosystem that is home to critically endangered lemurs.

Site work began in 2010, when four students began evaluations for sustainable solar power and water filter projects with the villagers in 2010. Visits have since happened annually, with biosand water filters built and solar panels installed at local schools.

“This honor reflects the passion and dedication that each member of our chapter has for our work. We are deeply invested in the mission of Engineers Without Borders, and this motivates us to perform top quality work that truly makes a difference in the world,” chapter president Jared Beyersdorf said.

“Along with the community of Kianjavato, we are extremely grateful for the financial support we have received over the years, enabling our projects to become reality.”

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