Engineers Without Borders Gearing Up at TTU

Tania Datta

Tennessee Tech University’s Engineers Without Borders club is making a difference in the lives of area residents, with ongoing efforts to monitor water quality and project collaborations with Habitat for Humanity and the Cookeville Children’s Museum.


The Engineers Without Borders organization puts young engineers to work at the project level. Their undertakings can be diverse, from agriculture, sanitation and civil engineering, to building affordable energy systems and monitoring water supplies.


“We want to accomplish some things here in Tennessee,” said faculty adviser and civil engineering assistant professor Tania Datta.


TTU engineering students in the club are working in remote areas of Putnam, Overton and Jackson counties with the Clean Water Group through the First Presbyterian Church to monitor and treat spring and well water.


They are building bank-related displays for the Cookeville Children’s Museum to help educate children about money.


“We plan on building a drive-through station complete with a bank-style pneumatic tube, which takes some engineering principles into consideration, and we’re thinking of a whole platform of currencies from other countries so that kids can see what money from around the world looks like,” said Datta. “We’re even thinking about a blank template where kids can stamp on another face on the currency – their own face, Harry Potter’s, or whoever. This is exciting because we are working with the Appalachian Craft Center to design the stamps and come up with an interactive Goldberg device-type ATM machine.”


Putnam County Habitat for Humanity is getting volunteers through the club to build and renovate homes for low-income families in the area, and to restore furniture donated to Habitat’s ReStore.


Engineers Without Borders projects are intended to provide the right solutions to communities in need, and to educate and train residents to be self-sufficient and be able to sustain the project. Chapters work with their communities through partnerships with local government and other organizations to survey, plan, design and construct sustainable engineering projects. Through the club, students get excellent opportunities to apply classroom knowledge and broaden their perspectives.


In addition to their local efforts, the chapter is making plans to work with professional and non-governmental organizations overseas to identify projects related to improving access to clean water and sanitation. Foreign work would likely involve students from other disciplines: nursing students to help with public health initiatives, or chemistry students to help with testing water quality, for example. English or business majors might help a community develop operational manuals to allow residents to maintain the program after the students leave.


“Access to health care, clean water, and sanitation are thrusts of the EWB organization,” said Dean of Nursing Melissa Geist. “and these are intimately tied to nursing and public health. Many of our nursing students are interested in doing mission work, so partnering with the engineers on campus through this group will provide opportunities for them to experience this type of work first in our own region and then internationally.”


“We’ve got some challenges coming up,” said Datta. “We really want to get more students involved, but we’re looking forward to some of the projects we already have in the works.”


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