Engineers Without Borders Earns Accolades, Fundraises for Cameroon

Congratulations go to the Georgia Tech chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-GT), which was honored for its creation of a sustainable solar sanitation system at the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance’s Open Minds competition last weekend in Washington, D.C. The team won first place in the event's video competition and was named runner-up for the People's Choice award.

Georgia Tech Open Minds Competition Team - Image Courtesy of NCIIA
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For its creation of a sustainable solar sanitation system, the Georgia Tech chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-GT) was named runner-up for the People’s Choice award in the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance’s Open Minds competition, in addition to winning first place in the event’s video competition, last weekend in Washington, D.C.

The group designed a latrine that uses solar energy to inactivate disease-causing pathogens in waste and render it safe to use as fertilizer. The project is a collaboration of EWB-GT students, the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and community leaders in Bolivia where the team has worked on installing protoypes of the system.

“In many communities, water is too precious to use for transporting waste,” said Kevin Caravati, research scientist at GTRI, which led to the group’s investigation of dry sanitation methods. The sanitized waste “can be used as fertilizer for biofuel crops or cotton, but people do use it for food, so we must make sure it’s safe — that’s where Emory and the Centers for Disease Control help us out."

In addition to the solar latrine project, EWB-GT currently has projects in Honduras and Cameroon; on Thursday, April 7, they’re hosting an event to recognize World Water Day, which officially fell during the Institute’s spring break, with their Mungoa-goa Challenge on Freshman Hill.

For the challenge, participants will race their friends up the hill while carrying five gallons of water to raise awareness for the one billion people who lack access to clean drinking water. Donations at the event will go to the Cameroon project team, which plans to travel there this summer.

“The Cameroon group is ready to really get into implementation,” said Chris Donegia, president of EWB-GT. In December 2010, the Cameroon group began implementing a water distribution system in the village of Mungoa-goa by starting the installation of a solar-powered well. “That community is great — they have a whole list of projects they want to do.”

EWB as an organization designs and implements sustainable, community-driven engineering projects that foster leadership within communities and among students. EWB in the United States formed in 2002; the Tech chapter emerged three years later.