Engineers without Borders build a better world

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

SDSU students are getting the chance to affect the lives of people all around the world.

About two years ago Matt Oedkoven, a recent graduate of SDSU, founded Engineers without Borders. Oedkoven contacted Jesse Wolfe, the current president of the chapter, about starting a chapter at SDSU. Wolf considered it a great opportunity.

“I thought it was a cool organization because you get to travel all over the world,” said Wolfe, a math and physics major.

Engineers without Borders is a national organization, with several chapters all over the world that work on different projects. Each chapter designs and implements systems of sustainable importance for developing countries, said Wolfe.

Projects can be international as well as domestic. People from these countries ask the National Engineers without Borders executives for help on improving their living standards. These projects are then placed on the website where each chapter can choose a project.

The SDSU chapter is currently working on a project in Pine Ridge. They are building a concrete, air-conditioned shelter for food donations.

The group has made an assessment trip to Pine Ridge, in which they got to know the people of Pine Ridge and the area better. Wolfe said it is a beneficial project to the people of Pine Ridge.

“They are really excited because they don’t have the money to do it themselves,” he said.

This is the chapter’s first project. Students will be making another trip to Pine Ridge to complete the project soon, said Wolfe. This project was chosen because the chapter needed some local experience first.

“Because we are just starting up, we wanted to have a domestic project under our belts before we do international [projects],” Wolfe said.

The group also attends an annual National Engineers without Borders Conference. The conference is used as a learning tool and to create relationships between chapters.

SDSU was one of the four chapters to attend the first conference held last year. This year 60 chapters attended.

The four original chapters acted as mentors to beginning chapters. They presented the projects they had done last year and what they learned from them.

Engineers without Borders is also growing on the local level. Last year seven people were included in the SDSU chapter; now there are 20 with 60 others interested. Wolfe said this is extremely crucial to the group.

Many different people with different majors are needed for the group. Wolfe said the biggest downfall is that many see the word “engineers” and think it is only for engineering majors, when in reality, all fields are needed.

The group does everything themselves. They pick the project, research it, design it, make travel arrangements, find a place to stay, build the project, find ways to finance the project, etc.

Wolfe said that so many are interested in the group because they are interested in people.

“It’s a humanitarian thing. People want to help people,” he said.

The chapter is funded by donations from the University and the College of Engineering. They have also begun talking to businesses, such as Daktronics, for support. The money is used to attend the conference and fund projects.

Wolfe said Engineers without Borders is built on the motto, “If you give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

“It’s amazing that students here at SDSU can help people all over the world,” he said. “[We are] building a better world, but doing it one community at a time.”

For more information on Engineers without Borders, contact Jesse Wolfe at 690-5805.