Penn Compact 2020/

Engage Locally, Nationally and Globally: Engineers Without Borders

Earlier this year, Penn Engineers Without Borders (PennEWB) traveled to Cameroon to improve an aged, inefficient water distribution system.

During the 14-day project, 10 Penn undergrads were joined by two alumni who served as project mentors, as well as two Wilkes University students. PennEWB is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities on environmentally and socially sustainable engineering projects. The group focused its efforts on improving the quality and quantity of the water supply in the Bome Valley, a community of about 50,000 people located in the mountainous northwest region of Cameroon.

Specifically, the group worked alongside more than 50 local villagers to modify and add to the five sites at the headwater, including two water catchments, two sedimentation basins, and the main water tank. The group’s efforts nearly tripled the water storage capacity and eased the need for future maintenance and repair. Due to their efforts, there was a 100 percent reduction in coliforms in the water supply.

The group also held public health focus groups with churchgoers and educated children on how to avoid contracting harmful diseases.

The trip allowed the students to put knowledge from a broad spectrum of academic fields into practice—from mechanical engineering, materials science, and systems engineering, to international relations, biology, public health, and accounting.

Photos and text by Larry Fan