The challenges the world is facing today are certainly no secret – climate change, the end of oil, poverty – these problems are complex and convoluted, and what’s more, they are each directly linked to the work of engineers.
In the auto sector, engineers have been designing machinery and processes for decades. As the implications of climate-change has influenced what we legislate, how we live and what we drive, so too is it changing how and what we engineer.
Owen Scott, Engineers Without Borders volunteer and University of New Brunswick civil engineering graduate, inspects a water pump in Malawi.
Engineers Without Borders is a Canadian organization made up of passionate people who are tackling the complex challenges of development. EWB harnesses the skills and creativity of the Canadian engineering sector to find practical solutions to extreme poverty.
Owen Scott is a Civil Engineer who recognizes the potential engineers have to make a huge difference by addressing all kinds of problems in the world today.
“Honestly, I was just drifting after graduation. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in Canada, other than that I wanted it to be meaningful and useful for the world,” Scott explains.
Now, Scott works in Malawi, where he is applying his engineering background to improve access to clean and consistent water for rural Malawians.
Access to clean water is a pressing issue in Malawi. With high rates of waterborne diseases and many rural African families lacking a clean source of water near to where they live, solving water issues has the potential to improve the lives of tens of thousands.
In Malawi, the placing of water infrastructure is frequently driven by inaccurate information about the water needs of rural communities, and water points are generally not well mapped. This causes wells and boreholes to be located too close to one another, or only in areas of perceived importance.
Scott is working to address this problem and improve access to water for rural Malawians. By documenting the location of water points across the country, Scott is helping Malawi’s districts identify their most vulnerable communities.
A Malawian woman pumps water from a functioning water point.
Problems such as the one Malawi is facing are unfortunately all too common. However, more and more engineers are showing their adaptability and creativity, and demonstrating how engineering crosses-disciplines and fits into the bigger picture of social responsibility.
Engineers are combining their formal training in engineering principles, theories, standards and techniques with a strong understanding of cultural differences. By working across the world they are creating widespread change.
With programs developing across Canada in financial engineering, management engineering and engineering and entrepreneurship, the definition of what it means to be an engineer is broadening, and the possibilities for engineers to contribute to positive social change are endless.
By Amanda Whitehead
Social Change Fellow, Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders is a movement of professional engineers, students, overseas volunteer staff, and supporters across Canada.
To learn more about Engineers Without Borders, visit www.ewb.ca.