With an estimated 50% of the world’s population currently earning less than $2 per day – and further estimates that 90% of design efforts undertaken in the world today are directed primarily towards 10% of the world’s population – we do indeed consider our efforts to be “Essential” Design.
Our goal is to focus on the development of appropriate infrastructure technologies which are sustainable – socially, environmentally, and particularly economically. These include projects related to: housing, water and wastewater systems, energy, and agricultural systems – with a strong emphasis on business and entrepreneurial development.
There exists a tremendous need around the world for basic infrastructure development and enhancement: 40% lack access to clean water, 50% do not have any wastewater treatment facilities at all, 20% have no electrical power, transport by foot often is the only option, and inefficient, low-yielding agricultural systems proliferate across much of the world. In addition, there is a dire lack of jobs and unemployment in many areas of the world which are major causes of discontent and turmoil.
Those of us blessed with natural resources, money, materiel, skills and training, or education – how do we each respond to such pressing humanitarian issues? One option is to provide motivated engineering students an option to be that person that makes a difference.
This concept of student engagement with communities and associated cultural awareness dovetails well with the fact that students in engineering face a future in which they will need more than just a solid technical background to be successful. In setting the goals for any system they are asked to design, they will be expected to interact effectively with people of widely varying social, cultural and educational backgrounds. They will then be expected to work with people from many different disciplines to achieve these goals. This is in addition to ensuring the students emerge as well-rounded and informed citizens.
Such efforts in student engagement have proven to be successful not only in broadening the education of students, but in the recruitment and retention of high quality students for the engineering profession.