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Engineers with Only Others in Mind

How does laboring for days for people you don’t know in a foreign country sound to you? For a handful of Oklahoma State students, it sounds like Spring Break.


The Oklahoma State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders is a campus group that specializes in helping the less fortunate. The group is far from being alone though. They are part of the national organization that boasts 276 chapters in 49 states across the United States. Oddly enough, it's not Alaska or Hawaii who are the outliers. Arkansas is the only state in the nation that does not have a chapter of EWB.












Paul Weckler is one of the faculty advisors for the OSU EWB chapter, and said the chapter was started in 2008. He became the advisor the following year. Weckler, a biosystems and agricultural engineering professor, said the group has had many successful projects, mentioning prior trips to Honduras and Guatemala.


“In Honduras we worked on water purification systems,” Weckler said. “Our students came up with a low-cost biosand water filters for individual families to use in their homes.”


















When the group was founded in 2008, there were only a handful of students that had joined, Weckler said. Over the years, that number fluctuated, but the peak was in the area of 100-120 students who regularly attended meetings, Weckler said. This year, there are roughly 30 students who regularly attend meetings.















Alicia Aguilar is the president of the EWB-OSU chapter. Aguilar is a senior double majoring in chemical engineering and biochemistry, but she has known about EWB since high school, and couldn’t wait until she would be able to join the group.


“I really liked the idea of getting out of the classroom and using my engineering skills right off the bat to help people in need,” Aguilar said. “Ever since I was a freshman I’ve been super passionate about this club and so I’ve just been doing whatever I can to help the club.”

Aguilar (left) talks with another member at a recent meeting. The group hopes to accomplish two major projects next semester.


The chapter has two main projects they are hoping to get finished this semester. The first project is building a rocket stove for the school kitchen. The current stoves are high off the ground and inefficient, and the ventilation is horrific, Aguilar said.


“It hurts the moms’ backs who are cooking to lift the giant pots off the stove because of how tall they are,” Aguilar said.


“They are also super inefficient because they have to collect a lot of wood in order to cook the food in the pots. The rocket stove is more efficient, it vents better and it’s lower to the ground. Hopefully it fixes most of their main problems."

The other main project is a water project, similar to what the group did in Honduras in 2012. The target is a community in Guatemala. The water there has both quantity and quality issues, Aguilar said.


“There is a river that runs through (the community),” Aguilar said, “but it’s so dirty with particulates and bacteria that it is almost unusable and uncleanable.


“Our goal is to create a design where we have rain-catchment systems. They are going to be able to catch rain throughout the year, and then we hopefully will put it through a filter at the end where it comes out so the community not only has more water, but it also has clean water that is in one designated place where everyone can go get it.”


Jacob Pekrul is a civil engineering major who hopes to specialize in water one day. He wants to be part of this project for multiple reasons.


“I want to join the water project because I want to help people,” Pekrul said. “I want to be a part of providing clean water to people who need it and I feel like with my engineering experiences and the resources of Engineers Without Borders I can do that.”


The group plans to implement both projects this coming Spring Break. This semester’s goal is to get all the designs approved and the paperwork submitted to the national headquarters.

“The rocket stove should be just one implementation trip,” Aguilar said. “It should be done by the end of Spring Break.


“The water project, on the other hand, is a much bigger project so it might take multiple implementation trips to get more water-catchment sites going or to come back and make sure everything is functioning properly.”


EWB-OSU has a fundraising team, as well as a networking team whose job is to help raise money and collect donations. If you would like to help the group, look for its fliers around campus or ask any group member what you can do for help. The chapter’s email address is


Two EWB-OSU members pose with children on a recent trip to Guatemala. The local chapter has been on campus since 2008. COURTESY: EWB-OSU

This video is from the 2012 EWB project in Honduras. It is Phase 2 of the implementation process for the group. The video from the first phase, including how the group made the filters, can be found here


The present members break off into their respective groups to work on the projects.


This video is from the 2012 EWB project in Honduras. It is Phase 2 of the implementation process for the group. The video from the first phase, including how the group made the filters, can be found here


Here is a picture of the rocket stoves that EWB-OSU built in 2012. The group plans to make more to help the school cooks make food easier and more efficiently. CREDIT: State Magazine


Engineers Without Borders USA is the parent group that all the chapters report to. There are 276 chapters in 49 states across the United States. CREDIT: EWB-OSU

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