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Engineering Societies

Engineers Without Borders

Expert Advice for Overseas Project

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Members of Engineers Without Borders visit the Rochester Water Bureau water filtration plant at Hemlock Lake.

Members of the University’s Engineers Without Borders student chapter went to the right place in preparation for the next phase of their project to provide a sustainable, on-site supply of drinking water for an elementary school in the Dominican Republic.

They visited Hemlock Lake, 28 miles south of campus, where the Rochester Water Bureau filters and treats 37 million gallons of drinking water a day.

“Nothing short of amazing,” sophomores Harel Biggie of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bradley Blazier of Biomedical Engineering, wrote afterwards of the Water Bureau operations they witnessed there.

vertThe EWB project in Don Juan, Dominican Republic, will involve lesser quantities of water, but some of the same principles and technologies. The school in Don Juan has two wells on site for nondrinking purposes, but drinking water has to be trucked in, which is too expensive to maintain long term.

Last January, five members of EWB spent ten days in Don Juan making an initial assessment and drawing up partnership papers with the agencies they’ll be working with there (Read more.).  This coming January, five more members of  EWB will spend another week in Don Juan:

  • Conducting in-depth testing of the water on site.
  • Forging links with  parents and community partners who will eventually take over testing and monitoring.
  • Ensuring there is no groundwater contamination from an old sewage system on the site.

“We also want to connect with the children so they understand why we’re doing this, so they really get that it's a matter of their personal health that they only drink potable water whenever possible,” said Luke Dengler ’18 of Chemical Engineering, who will go on the trip as the community partnership advocate.

The trip to Hemlock was important because it helped the chapter establish contact with two water bureau experts there: David Rowley, chief of water quality operations, and John Maier, laboratory director and water quality chemist.

They helped arrange rental of water testing equipment for the upcoming trip, will train the students in how to use it, and will help analyze the results they bring back from Don Juan and help factor that into the eventual water system design, explained Grace Caza  ’17 of  Mechanical Engineering,  the EWB co-program coordinator and Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (PMEL) lead who went on the first  assessment trip last spring semester.

“We are very grateful for the support we’ve been receiving,” she added.

For example:

  • Lisa Norwood, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the Hajim School and a member of the Rochester Rotary Club, helped connect students with that organization. The Rochester Rotary and Rochester Latino Rotary have donated the majority of funds needed for the upcoming trip this spring.
  • James Zavislan, Associate Dean of Education and New Initiatives in the Hajim School, for enabling the student chapter to raise funds for equipment during implementation through USEED (a university sponsored crowd funding initiative, which provides outreach training and is overseen by university faculty to best ensure the success of the campaign).
  • John Lambropoulos, Mechanical Engineering Department Chair and Ruth Eberlin, Mechanical Engineering Department Undergraduate Coordinator helped arrange the Hemlock trip and came up with funds to cover 60 percent of the bus fare.
  • Dwight Harrienger, senior project manager at Stantec Consulting Services, has volunteered his services to the club this semester, coming to chapter meetings to provide guidance on such topics as survey equipment and documentation revisions.

This is in addition to support from faculty adviser Scott Seidman, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Gary Moore, principal environmental engineer of the Louis Berger Group, who has been a project mentor since the beginning and is scheduled to accompany the students to Don Juan again this spring semester.

EWB, which regularly draws 30 to 40 members to its meetings, is part of a larger, national organization called Engineers Without Borders USA ( which according to its website, “builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.” Its 15,900 members work with communities to find appropriate solutions for water supply, sanitation, energy, agriculture, civil works and structures.

The UR chapter always welcomes new members from all disciplines. Interested students can join UR EWB on CCC and email  or visit EWB’s facebook page at for more information.