Spring 2022 Newsletter

EWB-USA UMN hopes you’re enjoying the start of spring in Minnesota! As we near the end of the year, we are preparing for a remote assessment for our new partner community in Toke, Ethiopia, implementation at the Victoria Garden, and our first international trip to our partner communities in Guatemala since 2019. Keep reading to find out more about these plans, and everything else we’ve been working on as a chapter this past semester.

We were very happy to have hosted our Spring Reception event on Saturday, April 23. The event included a catered dinner as we shared updates on our local and international projects and featured a mentor speaker and new member speaker.

We would also like to give a special shoutout to our chapter’s President Sneha Sinha for receiving the University of Minnesota President’s Student Leadership and Service Award! We are all very proud of Sneha and the outstanding work she has done for EWB! Congratulations Sneha!

Read more for updates from our project and marketing teams and to meet some of our members and mentors!

Team Updates

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Team Updates

Project Updates

Ethiopia - Toke

This semester, the Ethiopia team has been working on the assessment phase for the Toke project. At the beginning of the semester students decided to continue working on the project completely remotely after a travel ban was reimplemented in Ethiopia due to the political conflict and Covid-19. To facilitate this shift, the team has partnered with in-country engineers from the Woreda government. At the beginning of March, the Woreda engineers traveled to the community for the first assessment trip. Now the team is working on finalizing the project scope and preparing a second assessment trip before the semester ends to collect any data that was missed during the first trip. Since the project with the Toke community is now completely remote, a new community search focused in East Africa also started at the beginning of the semester. A group of students is looking into potential communities in Malawi, Uganda, and Rwanda. They have narrowed down their search through a decision matrix and risk analysis, and will be selecting a community in April.
Learn more

The new community search subgroup

Guatemala - Chirijuyu

The project continues making progress on construction with the oversight of the EWB Guatemala Country Office. The spring catchment box has been entirely built, and the lower tank retainment is almost done. The community is happy to be seeing substantial updates with the system. Concurrently, the water committee is receiving training and is working on establishing rules and best practices with the country office’s social worker. With the in-person help of the country office, the project has been able to run more smoothly. We still rely heavily on our Long Way Home contact, Roberto, to coordinate construction and be the bridge between the community, the country office, and EWB-UMN. 

Unfortunately, our travel plans in January were canceled, but a small team plans to visit Chirijuyu during the team’s May trip to Chi Chokon.

Guatemala - Chi Chokon

The Guatemala team has been working hard to develop alternatives for the water distribution project and prepare for travel to Chi Chokon in May. Students have started receiving data as a part of our remote assessment plan, which includes water quality reports and flow rate information. This will give the Springs subgroup the information they need to look at water treatment options and to ensure the capacity of the springs can meet the community need. The Tanks subgroup has been putting together a plan for an in-person construction seminar at the beginning of April, which will help students develop concrete and masonry skills. The Pipelines team has been busy researching alternatives for reconstructing the five existing aerial crossings with more robust and sustainable designs. Meanwhile, the CAD and EPANET subgroup has been developing the skills to process the data and start designs once the assessment trip is complete. We are excited to be planning our first full-force trip to Guatemala since spring of 2020 and look forward to meeting our community partners in-person soon.  Learn more

Victoria Garden

During the spring semester, Victoria Garden subgroups, Seating & Lighting, Water Distribution, Landscaping & Accessibility, Composting, and CAD, have been working diligently on their final designs. Students received feedback on their alternative’s analysis from the Community Engineering Corps (CECorps). CECorps is the equivalent of the role of EWB-USA for domestic projects. Additionally, students received feedback via an Independent Review Board, which contained four professional engineers who gave technical feedback on designs. Using this feedback, subgroups are finalizing their designs and will be presenting their designs to Victoria Garden Gardeners this Saturday at the Victoria Garden! Once designs are finalized students will begin preparing construction drawings for the implementation of the project which is scheduled to start during the middle of April. We are looking forward to getting hands-on experience and are very excited to collaborate with gardeners and Ujamaa place during construction. Learn more

Local Collab

As the Local Collab team wraps up its first project with Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, we are excited to look to the future! Our primary focus at this time is our partnership with Division of Indian Work. Meanwhile, we are continuing to reach out to Twin Cities organizations with demonstrated need to start a conversation around how EWB-UMN can have a greater impact in our community. We look forward to seeing what comes next for this team!

Division of Indian Work

We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Division of Indian Work (DIW), an organization that provides resources and support for the Twin Cities American Indian population. Our project addressing infrastructure needs at their Lake Street headquarters is well underway. We are wrapping up our assessment of the solar system and heading into the alternatives analysis phase for compost and rainwater catchment systems. It’s been great to see our DIW team grow this semester! Learn more

Marketing Updates

Marketing Team

Lots of progress has been made from the fundraising team this semester. We worked on putting together the Spring Donor Report and are also learning more about ways to fundraise for our local projects as EWB continues to grow in that space. The team is also starting to plan for the fundraising process to support our project work for the next year!  

On the creative side, we hosted another painting event where food was provided, and members were able to paint their own tote bags while watching a movie together!

If you are interested in helping plan creative tasks out, helping raise funds to support our group, or are just a big fan of trivia, join us at Marketing Meetings Thursdays from 5:30-6:30pm in Bruininks 312!

Community Context Committee (CCC)

This month the CCC talked about reliability, connecting it to a broader discussion of socio-technical assessments. Firstly, we looked at the dictionary definition of reliability: “The quality of being trustworthy or of performing well” (Oxford). While seemingly simple, trustworthiness and good performance are determined differently by different people based on their background, past experiences, and personal values. Two people may agree that a source is reliable based on two different reasons or disagree about its reliability based on the same reason, whether they find the author trustworthy or not, for example. We wanted to highlight this subjectivity in the discussion of reliability because it is usually approached as an objective measure of a source’s overall worth. This is important because it shows that every source, every person we talk to, is reliable in some contexts and their voice should be included. This connects to the idea of socio-technical assessments, assessments that include collection of both technical and social data, because, in order to effectively collect social data, we need to engage with a variety of people in a variety of contexts to understand as many perspectives as we can. Social data can include demographic surveys, individual’s opinion of the project, historical experiences, current events, and much more. Finding ways to integrate this data with the technical data throughout the course of the project will hopefully build a closer relationship with our partner community, improve workflow, and lead to longer term project success.

Member Highlights

New Project Leads Highlight - Mihir Madhaparia

Our new Ethiopia project lead is Mihir Madhaparia (he/him)! Mehir is a second-year student in Mechanical Engineering and is looking forward to working with EWB and our project partners to better the lives of others while gaining invaluable engineering experience. He has been working with our Toke task force group to progress further in our current project with them, in addition to our new community group to help research and identify a future community to partner with.

Lucas Nielsen

Our new Guatemala project lead is Lucas Nielsen (he/him)! Lucas is a first-year student in Chemical Engineering and is looking forward to seeing and guiding their new project in Chi Chokon from an idea to implementation. He has loved the fun environment of EWB thus far, and the collaborative and supportive environment provided from current and prior EWB members. Prior to his position as a project lead, he was a part of the pipelines subgroup, and he is excited to meet and develop connections with the community members this May.

Mentor Highlight - Jeff Stewart

Jeff Stewart is a licensed civil engineer and has been one of the Guatemala mentors since 2018. On March 20, 2022, Jeff and Ann Johnson Stewart taught surveying to the Guatemala travel team. These skills will be invaluable to the travel team when gathering data on the assessment trip Chi Chokon. In addition to his involvement with the Guatemala Program, Jeff contributes his time to the Victoria Garden Project. He recently brought his valuable feedback to the Independent Review Board to help our team refine designs. Thank you so much for your time helping us gain these skills for our project and careers!

Alumni Highlight - Brian Bell

Brian Bell was our chapter’s President from 2007-2008 during the initial years of the chapter’s formation. He was actively involved in both the Haiti and Uganda projects. EWB sparked Brian’s passion for social entrepreneurship and project management; Brian is now a senior program manager at Flexport. EWB taught Brian management skills such as leveraging the skillsets of members and managing stakeholders. When looking for a job after graduation, Brian advises students to consider what skillsets the job would develop and the career path the job would lead to in the long term. He also encourages students to not constrain themselves to their field of study and to explore other directions early on in their careers.

We are grateful for his contributions to EWB!

Donor Highlight - Craig and Janice Ebeling

The Ebelings have been very kind supporters of EWB for a while and became involved with our group as alumni of the University of Minnesota looking to stay connected! Their support stems from the alignment of both their and EWB’s values when it comes to making a positive impact in the world. From the time they were introduced to EWB they had a dream to facilitate a partnership between EWB and the Burnsville Rotary, as members of the organization. This dream has been realized in recent years as Burnsville Rotary endorsed us in the process to be awarded the Rotary District Grant that was used to fund the Chirijuyu Project of the Guatemala Program! We are grateful for their involvement and the positive influence they have had on the evolution of our projects!