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Challenges and Benefits of Establishing an Engineers Without Borders Chapter at WWU

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Collaborative Learning, Project-Based, Service Learning, and Impacts on Engineering Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.316.1 - 22.316.9



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Paper Authors


Forrest Alden Copeland Western Washington University

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While completing his undergraduate degree in Manufacturing Engineering Technology, Forrest Copeland helped establish the Engineers Without Borders student chapter at Western Washington University in 2006. Copeland completed his degree in 2009 and graduated as the Engineering department’s outstanding senior. He also received the Presidential Scholar Award due, in part, to his work with the Engineers Without Borders student club. Shortly after graduation, Copeland traveled with four other students and one professional to conduct an assessment trip in Guatemala for the project. Copeland is currently an industrial engineer at a Bellingham Washington hardwood plywood manufacturing facility.

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Derek M. Yip-Hoi Western Washington University

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Derek Yip-Hoi has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. He has broad experience in CAD/CAM and geometric and solid modeling from research and teaching experiences at UM and the University of British Columbia. Currently he coordinates the CAD/CAM instruction in the Engineering Technology Department at Western Washington University.

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Abstract submitted to ASEE 2011 Challenges and Benefits to Establishing an Engineer’s Without Borders Student Chapter at Western Washington UniversitySession Topics: 1. Engineers Without Borders programs involving students 2. Programs for engineering students to gain international experience 3. International Collaborations, Experiences, Partnerships, Service LearningIn 2005 students at Western Washington University established a chapter of Engineers without Borders.The chapter was hosted in the university’s Engineering Technology Department with many of the initialmembers and faculty coming from this department. As an organization, EWB-USA has a strong focuson clean water projects. A cursory review of the projects listed on EWB-USA's website indicates that amajority fall into this category with much of the remainder having a strong construction flavor e.g.bridge building. This has proved challenging to WWU’s chapter because the Engineering Technologydepartment does not include a program in Civil Engineering Technology. Consequently this caused thestudent chapter to reach out to other departments within the University as well as to professional non-student mentors in the greater Bellingham community. This paper will describe the challenges,advantages, and possibilities of working with a multidisciplinary student group, and professionalmentors, to develop a water quality solution for a rural community in Guatemala.This paper will highlight one of the strengths of the WWU chapter which is the high interest andparticipation from a diverse section of the student body. While there are engineering students activelyparticipating in the project, many students are pursuing degrees in environmental science, Spanish,community health, design, business, and education. This diversity has engendered a more holisticapproach to the project. This has made it easier to integrate historical, cultural, language, wellness andsustainability perspectives into the technical efforts of the project team. EWB-USA strongly encouragesthis type of multidisciplinary approach to international projects, rather than focusing exclusively onengineering and technical aspects. This paper will explain the structure and operation of WWU's EWBchapter and how the project team is able to incorporate ideas from a variety of students into onecohesive project. The paper will also explain how the findings of an assessment trip to Guatemala in2009 further demonstrate the advantages of working with students from a variety of academicbackgrounds.Despite the academic variety of the student members, there are areas of specialization includingsurveying, wetland design, and civil engineering that are beyond the student's area of knowledge.Therefore, the student chapter relies heavily on mentorship from experts in the community and is incollaboration with a Professional EWB chapter in Bellingham. This paper will describe the experiencesand processes used by the chapter in using this network to achieve the goals of their project. It will alsohighlight the challenges faced as represented with fundraising, membership continuity, and leadership.

Copeland, F. A., & Yip-Hoi, D. M. (2011, June), Challenges and Benefits of Establishing an Engineers Without Borders Chapter at WWU Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17597

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