Starting the semester off with even more projects to consider, research, and prototype, we are looking forward to another year of work with the community in Naluja!
This summer marks the third trip to Naluja, Zambia, our partner community, and exciting progress for our chapter of Engineers Without Borders at BU. As we approach our August 2014 Implementation Trip, the travel team begins their preparation in anticipation of spending over two weeks in Zambia. This trip provides an invaluable opportunity to immerse in a different culture in order to understand the community’s needs and then provide for their needs with our sustainable projects. Over the past year, both the cell signal amplification and water-sanitation projects have seen much progress and project development, a testament to our dedicated members and technical groups. Our focus on this trip is a Pilot Implementation for our filtration system and second Implementation for the cell amplification project. The travel team will embark on their journey to Zambia August 11th and return the 27th!
Our water-tech group made great strides with the filtration project this year and hopes to continue this success with water testing this summer. Next year’s E-board Vice President, Kayla Trexler, helped by providing Agar plates to compare water from the Charles River with water filtered by one of our prototyped Biosand filters. The summer plan is to get a fully functioning Biofilm layer on top of the filter—this layer is the most important part of the filtration process as it removes much of the bacteria present in the water. Water must be continuously added to the filter each day as the Biofilm layer forms as it requires continuous moisture to grow a microenvironment for bacteria to flourish. This aspect of the design will be a focus of education workshops with local members of the community and will therefore require close monitoring from our travel prep team.
As for the Cell Signal Antenna, this summer will be used for testing active boosters and considering the best way to get the most gain from the antenna. This summer’s trip will see great change from last year’s Yagi antenna system, replacing the passive system with a more functionally consistent active booster device. The improved design will use solar panels to provide an energy source for the active boosters, thereby preserving its sustainable features. But, with two main weather seasons present in Naluja—dry and wet—the dry season will see great use of the solar panels while the wet season brings threats of lightning to the antenna. Clearly, the summer months will be used to finalize the Signal Amplification design and to anticipate any obstacles the group may come across in country. The team is very excited to implement this device in the local health clinic where phone service is essential to communicating with patients and returning HIV test results to the mothers of newborns, as part of CGHD’s Project Mwana. To learn more about Project Mwana check out this link: http://unicefinnovation.org/projects/project-mwana.
Moving from the projects to the team itself: our travel team consists of three Boston University students and two mentors, one for the Cell Amplification Project and one for the Biosand Water Filtration Project. We are happy to announce the selection of Joshua Das and Balaji Kamakoti as this year’s tech mentors who will both be helping lead the group in Zambia this August. Of the students prepping for implementation abroad, Lauren Etter and Scott Nickelsberg are rising sophomores, while Donovan Guttieres is a rising junior and this coming year’s E-Board President. The preparation is quite time-consuming as each member needs to apply for a Visa, get vaccinations, and fully understand the construction process for both projects. Yet, the process will pay off because, as Donovan puts it, “successfully implementing our two current projects will hopefully initiate improvements in the community and education programs that will make our local partners self-dependent in order to expand projects on a community wide scale over the next few generations.”
Lauren shares what she anticipates will be the most exciting part of the implementation trip:
“I am most looking forward to meeting and interacting with the community on this trip. What we do at Engineers Without Borders is a collaborative effort, and being able to meet the community that we’ve been working with for the past several years is going to be surreal. I am really looking forward to it!”
While Scott looks forward to “seeing our protoypes become functional tools” in addition to “see[ing] the impact our projects have on the health of the community,” he also foresees trials ahead:
“I think our greatest challenge will be adapting to whatever does not go according to our pre-trip plans. We will be in an unfamiliar environment with few resources and limited time on site, so we will have to think carefully and quickly about how to approach whatever problems arise.”
No matter the challenges, the team will be working all summer to finalize each project, prepare for life in Zambia, and bond with their team members in order to travel as a cohesive and well-informed group while proudly representing BU and our EWB chapter abroad.They are representatives of our chapter and will serve as an extension of our group’s efforts and contributions from the past year as we envision more progress in our Naluja Community Health Program.
We wish our travel team the best of luck on their trip this August! Special thank you to all members of the prep team and generous partners who will assist the group throughout the summer and ensure its success! Stay tuned for more updates on the trip as it unfolds!
These efforts are meant to help the locals of Naluja and to serve as an example for other communities as they also try to combat the prevalence of HIV using m-Health initiatives. Much of the health concern in Zambia revolves around the passing of HIV from mother to infant, which accounts for 21% of HIV contraction in Zambia overall (Steidenberg). Giving an expectant mother anti-viral medication can help prevent them from transferring the disease to their children, but if the infant does contract the disease, we hope that our antenna will ensure the infant starts receiving treatment as soon as possible. Early detection decreases the rate of mortality later in life, thereby increasing the standard of living for people with HIV/AIDS. It is a great way to positively impact lives in Zambia, as much of Africa is attempting similar programs to help lessen the impact of HIV. That is why we, within our EWB-BU chapter, are so excited for the progression of the Yagi Antenna project and are looking forward to bettering our current model during our upcoming Summer 2014 trip to Naluja!
A promising study conducted by the United Nations in multiple African countries shows a huge decrease in infant contraction of HIV/AIDS in recent years. Among others, Zambia “reported reductions of at least fifty percent” since 2009 (Stuart). This is an amazing feat for these countries whose main health concern has been HIV/AIDS for many years because of the inability to completely treat an infected person. Even more surprisingly, Ghana reported a 76% reduction of HIV in infants. These are breakthrough statistics for countries in Africa, as they set a great example for other developing regions struggling to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Even more encouraging is the use of a similar text message program by the World Health Organization, which has been implemented in other countries and regions of Zambia (Thea). The WHO’s use of text message transmission reassures our organization that the work we do does have an impact on our partner community and has the potential to change statistics. We hope our progress with the antenna in Zambia will help improve the chances of even more children surviving HIV and further reduce the amount contracting the disease in the first place. Global health improvement is at the core of our organization and is an integral part of increasing the standard of living for the people in Naluja.
Steidenberg, Phil, Donald Thea, Stephen Nicholson, Merrick Schaefer, Katherine Semrau, Maximillian Bweupe, Noel Masese, Rachael Bonawitz, Lastone Chitembo, and Caitlin Goggin. (n.d.): n. pag. World Heath Organization. WHO, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
Stuart, Elizabeth. “How to Achieve an AIDS Free Generation? Ghana Has a Few Ideas.” Global Post. Global Post-International News, 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
Guest blog writer: Laura Windmuller, former president of EWB-BU (2012-2013)
If you’re not already involved with Engineers Without Borders, you should be. People may offer a lot of different and valid reasons why, but I’m going to give you a few of my own.
You will meet new people. For freshmen or transfer students, it’s the cheesy “get involved and make friends”. Like other groups, you will get to meet people outside the sphere of your normal interactions in the dorms or classrooms. Particularly for engineers, the chance to meet upperclassmen can be extremely helpful when navigating the perils of a rigorous undergrad course load. However, EWB doesn’t just limit you to people on campus. You get to work with people even further outside your sphere. You can email with community health workers about our partnering community’s health burden. You can hear from world-renowned speakers like Jeffery Sachs at the Millennium Campus Conference. You can network with engineering professionals who oversee our projects. Pushing yourself outside of the normal collegiate routines and experiences by joining EWB will offer an incredible opportunity to make new friends that have a hugely diverse perspective.
You get hands-on and practical experience in both engineering and non-engineering matters. Since our group is student-led, we handle everything from fundraising to project management to travel logistics. This means, you don’t get locked into either the technical or administrative unless you want to. We offer options. What makes our group unique from others is the high-stakes client-facing nature of our work. We are not cutting checks to foundations or completing projects at the directive of a professor. These are meaningful projects that are directed by the needs of a “client” (i.e. our partnering community). In these circumstances, you will grapple with ambiguity and unknowns since it’s no longer a professor creating a problem statement or stating design requirements that guide your work. You have to ask the right questions and make the correct assumptions in order to succeed. I can tell you that you won’t experience this type of scenario until your senior year at most universities. When I say “high-stakes”, I mean that the results of your work affect more than your GPA; it will affect the daily lives of citizens thousands of miles away. We make promises to our partners and we have to deliver on them. Your participation and work affects our ability to do so. This is about much more than just a grade. It’s about our credibility, our partnering community’s health, and our supporters’ trust. Everything from the airline tickets to the first aid prep to the technology testing contributes to our success, and all of this work is done by people like you.
It is the perfect topic for interviews. I can’t guarantee you will get a job or into graduate school just by joining EWB, but I can say that it has helped a significant number of alumni during interviews. EWB act as a perfect and unique case study for showing off your experience, skill set, and personal interests. While some people may be in a sport or cultural group, you get to discuss how you raised $2000 at a silent auction or designed a Yagi antenna for a public health initiative. For a select few, you may even get to discuss your personal visit to a partnering community and the various challenges you faced there. However you participated in EWB, you can easily impress any interviewer by discussing our work and your unique contribution to it. Now, some people may be upset that I raised this point since it doesn’t necessarily reflect the core values of our group. However, I don’t think anybody remains a part of EWB as a resume builder. It’s not a strong enough motive to have people put in the time and effort we require. I think it’s only fair that those who commit to our work feel free to discuss all the wonderful skills and experiences they have gotten from it—guilt free!
During my time with EWB, I have found dozens of reasons to care about this group. If you’re hesitant to join, please don’t be. There is so much you can do as part of our team. Don’t miss out because you never tried.
Find out more by visiting our site, blog, twitter, and facebook page!
Many of the items up for bidding were generously donated by corporations or restaurants from the greater Boston area. These include a discounted stay at the Hyatt Harborside hotel, the newly opened Pavement Coffee House, exhilarating passes to skyzone, and much more. The range of items auctioned and the affordable prices, made many of these appealing items to those who attended.
Boston University faculty
We were very happy to showcase delicious assortments of pastries prepared by several of the faculty at BU, who have supported our organization for many years. Their help and dedication is always appreciated as we are a growing student organization that is always looking to reach out further into the BU community.
Items from Zambia
The travel team that returned to Boston in august was able to acquire several authentic items from the local regions where our partner community is located. These include wood-carved penholders, beautiful and colorful paintings, and a fierce lion figure, among others.
Along with the bidding of the items, we were fortunate to have a guest lecture from Dr. Christopher Gill, a faculty of international health and infectious disease. He has worked on maternal health projects around Zambia for the past several years, undergoing clinical trials for improving neonatal survival in developing regions that are prone to early child mortality due to a range of diseases. His presentation focused on CGHD’s Lufwanyama Neonatal Survival Project (LUNESP), for which he was a principle investigator for, which sought to teach local birth attendants proper techniques to take precautions and treat infants to reduce neonatal mortality in the region of Zambia. This gave us a wonderful perspective on another aspect of global health development near our partner community of Naluja.
The students and professors who were able to attend and support our work in Zambia demonstrated our success at the event. Ultimately, after finalizing our finances, the $1200 we were able to raise from the event pushed us forward in our efforts in planning a third trip to Naluja, Zambia during the summer of 2014. We are currently undergoing design modifications and prototyping to determine the most applicable and sustainable water-filtration system that we will be able to implement in Zambia during the summer of 2014. Furthermore, we are looking into improving the Yagi antenna that was implemented this past August in order to maximize the impact it can have by increasing cell signal to support project Mwana and local communication.
NEW BLOG FOR NEW WEBSITE
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