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Global Engineering

25 Nov


EWB Perspectives Challenge

November 25, 2010 | By |

What’s Your Perspective ?  Join In !

“What does poverty reduction look like? How should it be done?
What’s an engineers role? You likely have a perspective. So do the
people creating pages on this site. They want to challenge yours,
by sharing theirs. They believe in Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB)
systemic approach to addressing the root causes of poverty.
Intrigued? Read their perspectives. And, if you suddenly
see things a little differently, make a donation to EWB.”

There sure are some inspiring profiles on the EWB Perspectives website !

For starters, do drop by the Perspectives pages of our Grand River Team ~

         NaomiDane and  Alyssa.

31 Aug


Chitsime – A Well

August 31, 2010 | By |

Update From The Field

One of EWB’s new African program volunteers, our Grand River chapter’s Don McMurtry, has started a really interesting blog.  It will follow Don’s progress and challenges during his four months in Malawi as an EWB Professional Junior Fellow.  You can read his first post here below, or on his own site “Mudzi Madzi“.

Two days ago, after a three hour mini-bus ride south from Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, I arrived in the town of Balaka. An EWB colleague who accompanied me on the 6 am departure from Lilongwe’s chaotic bus “terminal” (two tiny block sheds in the middle of a large grassless field filled with people, busses and cargo vans, recounted standing for several hours on a jam-packed coach, so our trip was far less uncomfortable than might be expected.

While in Lilongwe and again here in Balaka, I have been staying in guest houses that offer a variety of room types. The one on Lilongwe had as many as seven people; here at the Chitsimi Hostel it costs 500 Kwatcha per night (about Cdn $3.33, including breakfast) for a four-person shared room. Single rooms are available as well, but I am happy to meet others. It is my hope to soon find a family in a nearby village that will accept me as a guest and where I can still walk a convenient distance to the office.

Balaka’s District Water Office (part of the Malawi Ministry of Irrigation & Water Development) will be my base of work for the next four months. On Friday morning, my second day in the district office, Mr. Nkwate (a Water Monitoring Assistant) was asked by Mr. Mapsere (the District Water Officer, aka his boss) to take me to Utale to visit a rural health station. It was very helpful to meet some of the dozen “health surveillance assistants” who work in that area as I slowly assemble my understanding of how water services are provided in rural Malawi. It also made more clear how interdependent the Health and Water departments are, just as they are in North America.

Unlike most districts in Malawi, Balaka has a substantial gravity-fed pipe network reaching into rural areas as well as bore-hole wells equipped with hand pumps. As the district population has grown, less water, sometime none, makes it to the more remote edges of the almost three decade old network. There are other reasons for taps being non-functional as well, but I don’t yet have a more comprehensive systemic understanding at this early stage. Most of the Utale taps fall into the non-fuctional category.

Tap water in Lilongwe and here in Balaka is drinkable. Chlorine is added to the water as it enters the distribution network near the reservoir dam but one can imagine there is a drop-off of concentration in various circumstances. The scent of water from the tap is welcome.

At the health centre I learned about HTH, the chlorine powder added to water for drinking. Rural people without piped water add a teaspoon of HTH into a 20 litre container to make the water safe.

Nkwate gave me some riding instructions as we departed for the health centre on the back of a District-owned motorcycle. Twisting along dirt paths and roads, at times bumping across railway lines, was a reminder that I must spend a portion of every day doing back strengthening exercises or I run the risk of a recurrence of my lower-back disk injury. The brain-bucket (aka motorcycle helmet) EWB had me purchase while we were in Toronto for training was one of the more essential things stuffed into my bag.

11 Aug


Building Water Systems, Not Just Wells

August 11, 2010 | By |

Stories from the field ~ Development in Ghana

There’s a really interesting new EWB Special Report  by Toronto Chapter member Daniel Olsen, on the website of The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers.

Definitely worth a look.  And you might also want to bookmark Dan’s blog:

Through Dan’s Eyes:  Stories from the field – Development in Ghana, Africa.

16 May


The Rationale for Developing Global Competence

May 16, 2010 | By |

This week’s featured link is for a really good article in The Online Journal for Global Engineering Education.  

OJGEE “serves as a unique peer-reviewed research outlet for the cross-disciplinary and corporate constituencies involved in creating, maintaining, and growing global engineering education programs. An outgrowth of the annual Colloquium on International Engineering Education, the Online Journal for Global Engineering Education provides an academic forum to exchange ideas, find like-minded thinkers and researchers, foster new collaborations, and explore new facets of global engineering education” (quoted text from OJGEE home page).

To access the full aticle, just click the “download” button at the top right of “The Rationale for Developing Global Competence” abstract page.

I hope this useful journal can continue to attract the submission of enough papers to keep publishing at least one issue annually.  I’ll let you know when the next issue comes out.

04 May


Engineers: Local or Global Citizens?

May 4, 2010 | By |

Many Canadian engineers agree that our academic curricula need to better equip engineering students for professional life in a dynamic and global 21st century. A 2009 survey conducted within the Canadian engineering community by EWB-Canada indicated there was a “strong disconnect between the profession’s desired future impact and its current inability to help make globalization’s benefits accessible to disadvantaged communities.” Where there is less agreement, however, is around how to best affect this change. A series of four articles published in the Journal for Policy Engagement between May 2009 and April 2010 provides an interesting snapshot of the divergent views on the subject.

In May 2009, Jonathan Fishbein, Program Coordinator for Curriculum Enhancement and Global Engineers at EWB-Canada, and Adrian Chan, Associate Professor in Systems and Computing at Carleton University, authored a paper asserting engineers needed to better understand their societal responsibilities. With an industry-wide global mindset the attraction of socially conscious engineers to and public perception of the profession would be enhanced, and the best way to achieve this mindset shift would be through reflective changes to engineering curricula in our universities.

For many who have professionally matured in an EWB-infused culture, this stance may appear as a no-brainer, but for others in the Canadian engineering community, the issue is not as clear cut. In fact, several published responses to the article haven’t been in support of Fishbein’s and Chan’s viewpoints.

Alexander Kobelak, a retired engineer with 40 years of experience working in international settings, was not as taken by the idea of producing global engineers in the classroom. In his January 2010 article, Kobelak maintains that engineers who work abroad are different than most in the profession, often possessing qualities inherently that make them successful at what they do. He continues by stating that these qualities  are hard, and perhaps impossible, to teach to all engineering students, subsequently rendering a globally focused curriculum inappropriate.

Fishbein and Chan’s published response claims these skills are already being incorporated into current curricula with no negative impact to technical abilities. They argue further that “our globalized economy requires more engineers equipped with superior communication skills, with flexibility working in different cultures and contexts, and who have a facility for multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary teamwork, a well-developed sense of social responsibility, and strong complex problem analysis skills,” best described as “global engineers.”

The latest word in the JPE published debate came in April 2010 from Jonathan VanderSteen and Usman Mushtaq, a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Guelph and a M.Sc. candidate at Queen’s University, respectively, who portend that engineer development should be focused locally and not globally. “Local community engagement provides many of the benefits gained from international experience with fewer practical, ethical and pedagogical risks” claim the authors. “As well, focusing on local communities strengthens engineering’s relationships with the people it is most intimately connected with and helps practitioners prepare for a future in which they are likely to be more locally engaged.”

For those who were not able to previously partake in this debate or attend the 2009 National Engineering Summit in Montreal, reading all four articles is recommended to get a taste of the discussion. Each of them, as well as a host of others can be accessed through the noted links or through the JPE website. For additional commentary with an EWB flair, the published discussion in the JPE is also mirrored on EWB-Canada’s intranet website, MyEWB.

Most in the engineering industry would agree with VanderSteen and Musthaq: “Canadian engineers can create positive [and] transformative change in society.” Exactly how we train the new wave of Canadian engineers to best do this appears to still be contentiously at issue.

25 Mar


A&WMA Premier Technical Series: EWB’s Evidence Based Decision Making in Northern Ghana

March 25, 2010 | By |

Imagine you are working for the local government of the Saboba District in Ghana, West Africa. Many of the communities within the District are in extreme need of services and infrastructure like clean water, sanitation facilities, and health care. You have many separate donors who want to give you money and implement projects they think will  help the people of your area. But some of these donors have never been to your area and don’t understand the challenges being faced; others are pushing projects that overlap. You can’t say no to these donors because you don’t want to lose their support and money – it is often their money which is keeping your District afloat. So you go along with all of their projects, and although some problems are solved, often the solutions are ineffective, and real causes of problems are left lingering.

Shamir Tanna has spent the last year working the Saboba District Assembly to promote and facilitate the use of evidence-based decision making in the selection of locations for boreholes, latrines, schools, and health centers. The goal of this work is to ensure that the District Assembly can respond such that communities that are in the most urgent need will be helped first, with the right interventions, based on the opportunities and funding sources available. Shamir will speak about his capacity building role, as part of EWB’s Governance and Rural Infrastructure Team and their broader objectives to support effective planning cycle activities and a regional monitoring system at the local government level in Northern Ghana.

The Air and Waste Management Association, Ontario Section has invited EWB to present at their March Premier Technical Presentation Series in Waterloo, on April 28, 2010, with all proceeds of the event going towards EWB-Grand River.

Speaker: Shamir Tanna, African Program Staff, Engineers Without Borders Canada

Shamir Tanna graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Electrical Engineering in 2007. Prior to his work with Engineers Without Borders, Shamir worked as an analyst at TD Securities. During this time, he helped found, a Facebook site, which matches would-be volunteers with non-profit organizations.

Cost: AWMA Member $20, Non-member $25, Student Member $5, Student Non-Member $10, No prior notification surcharge $5

If possible please bring payment the day of the event in the form of cash or cheque (made payable to AWMA-Ontario Section).  All proceeds go to support EWB-Grand River’s African Programs

To Register: Contact Camille Taylor by phone: 519-884-0510

Date: Wednesday April 28, 2010

Note: This event has been rescheduled from the original March 31, 2010 scheduled date.

Time: 7:30 A.M. Registration and Breakfast, 8:00 A.M. – 9:10 A.M. Presentation

Location: Conestoga-Rovers & Associates Ltd., 40 Bathurst Drive, Waterloo, ON