UCSB’s Engineers Without Borders chap- ter will hold its first annual Social Ventures Competition later this month, inviting par- ticipants to submit original project proposals targeting social and developmental concerns across the globe.
Teams of one to five students may either address the issue of water quality in the Ecuadorian town of El Tesoro or an indepen- dent project focused on bringing sustainable development to an underprivileged communi- ty. EWB-UCSB, a student organization open to undergraduate and graduate members, sponsors the contest in an effort to develop sustainable partnerships worldwide.
A general meeting regarding the compe- tition will be held at 6 p.m. tonight in the Engineering Science Building 1001. The reg- istration deadline for participants is tonight at midnight and presentations will take place on May 30 in ESB 1001.
EWB-UCSB President Paul Weitekamp said the contest aims to give ambitious students an opportunity to pursue their humanitarian goals. “We wanted to give UCSB students a platform to explore their interests and develop socially responsible projects, along with the chance to demonstrate their capabilities to professionals,” Weitekamp said. “The con- testants will gain access to the Engineers Without Borders’ resources such as feedback from experienced engineers, environmental- ists [and] anthropologists as well as from a network of like-minded students.”
EWB adviser David Bothman, principal development engineer for UCSB’s Mechanical Engineering Dept., said the competition is open to a wide spectrum of propositions that do not necessarily have to be technology- based.
“Submissions can be technological but can also be purely social projects that are derived from other disciplines,” Bothman said. “In the past in the EWB, we’ve seen an idea for [a] women’s co-op and also a conference for rural women who would otherwise have no chance of interacting with each other. There’s nothing technological about these.”
According to Bothman, EWB estab- lished the competition after recognizing the need for an avenue for social entre- preneurship.
“I’d like to see people from global studies, economics and other majors, but we just didn’t have time to organize and notify all the departments,” Bothman said. “It’s a student organization, created so people can apply their skills to help solve problems around the world, so all students should participate.”
Bothman said the competition also serves as a networking opportunity where students can share innovative ideas with professionals in their field as well as community members.
“We have projects dealing with how to detect malaria in remote places, fix water pumps in Africa, a bicycle-powered water purifier, renewable energy sources and more,” Bothman said. “It remains to be seen if EWB will be adopting these ideas. We’re always looking for new proj- ects, and some could be directly used by EWB, but others could be better utilized by other organizations and people. This is why we want to connect contestants to people that can put those ideas to work.”
Bothman said the competition is a valuable educational experience for con- testants as well as professionals in emerg- ing fields in technology.
“The best role we can play is teaching people about technological innovations not available to them, and then helping to gain access to resources. We would be providing some tools to help the people solve their own problems, but engineers won’t be able to magically solve the world’s issues,” Bothman said. “People we work with overseas are attuned to their environment and their issues; we learn from them as much we provide them information. That’s the spirit of this competition.”
Weitekamp said today’s meeting will feature a guest speaker who may help connect the project process to the results.
“We’d like to encourage students to attend the general meeting with anthro- pologist and former UCSB faculty mem- ber, Scott Lacy,” Weitekamp said. “He has a wealth of experience working in Africa with engineers and social scien- tists. He could bridge the gap between social science and technology, showing how they can work together to affect change.”
Interested students can register for the competition online at http://www.ewb- ucsb.org/svc by midnight on May 16.