Friday, 13 January 2012

Why Engineers Without Borders - UK?

I watch TED (Technology Entertainment Design) talks quite a lot. There's usually some interesting stuff on there. When browsing one day I saw this talk by David Damberger from EWB-Canada on there:

It really inspired me, he talks a lot of sense. Two of my main concerns when donating to charities are; First, how much actually reaches those you are intending to help and second, whether the money given will make a meaningful difference over the long term.

I know that sounds quite negative, as surely every little helps (thanks Tesco), but to me it seems like a colossal waist. Surely it's better to precisely target and distribute donations for maximum effect.

Part of why it struck a chord with me is, as an engineer we are taught to think about the whole life cycle of the project. Too often in life whether we see it at work, in government or within charities money is wasted through short term thinking. It's epidemic.
David talks of brand new water taps being installed in Africa only for them to cease functioning less than a year later. Nobody had thought of maintaining the system or the ability of the local community to afford new parts. Not only that, the new system had been built right next to a separate system that was installed ten years prior (with largely the same technology, these are simple systems) but had also fallen into disrepair.

Madness! Admittedly EWB had fallen into these pitfalls much like other charities but at least they began acting to fix it after they'd recognised the situation a few years back. I appreciate the honesty and the lack of garbage. It's just common sense.

In addition to the holistic approach taken with projects overseas, they also do work within around 50 UK schools, and have stands at various science fairs. These tend to be workshops focusing on solving problems through engineering and are intended to inspire the next generation. 

The promotion of engineering & science is very important to me (yes I'm biased). This planet is full of problems and it's going to take a lot of people with the right skills to solve them.


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