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News Release

University of Minnesota's Engineers Without Borders student group awarded $50,000 for projects in Haiti and Uganda

Contacts: Todd Reubold, IonE, (612) 624-6140,
Guillermo Alfonzo, EWB, (612) 703-4533,
Mark Cassutt, University News Service, (612) 624-8038

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (03/18/2009) — The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and its signature program, the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), recently awarded $50,000 to the campus chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

The student-led organization, which was established in 2005, will use the funding to advance its global mission: To work directly with disadvantaged communities to improve their quality of life through the implementation of economically sustainable and environmentally friendly engineering projects.

“Our goal is to provide sustainable solutions and education for the poorest people in the world, and $50,000 will go a long way toward meeting this goal quickly and successfully,” said EWB chapter president and Institute of Technology student Guillermo Alfonzo.

One team of students will use the funds to assess, design and implement biogas digesters in the city of Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. The biogas system will process the human waste collected from composting toilets. Once transported to a central facility, the waste will be converted to methane gas through the process of anaerobic digestion. Along with helping to suppress disease, the project will produce a renewable fuel for heating, cooking and agricultural uses.

The funding will also support a team of students working in Uganda. In collaboration with the Uganda Rural Fund, the students will implement a solar-powered water supply system for Hope Integrated Academy -- a vocational college, high school and community resource center in the rural village of Mulobere. Upon completion, the system will provide the entire school and more than 500 villagers with clean drinking water. The project also incorporates a sanitation building design and health education focused on malaria prevention.

In addition, the students will use the funds to develop and implement a first-of-its-kind Geo-Wiki. This online collaborative tool will allow the Engineers Without Borders group to share village-level solutions on an international scale. The Web-based application will facilitate communication among the students, non-governmental organizations, communities and individuals working on similar projects around the world.

“We’ve pledged to invest net proceeds from IREE’s annual E3 conference in support of undergraduate opportunities in renewable energy and the environment -- and this is an exciting example of that commitment,” said IREE director Dick Hemmingsen. “Our mission and the student group’s mission have a lot in common, so this partnership is just a natural fit.”

“I’m deeply impressed with the Engineers Without Borders team. They’re smart, they’re organized, and they’re clearly committed to doing good in the world,” said Jonathan Foley, director of the IonE. “While many students have the passion to do big things, these students also have the know-how and organization to make it work.”

Visit to learn more about the University Of Minnesota chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

About the funding source:
Led by IREE, the annual E3 conference focuses on the intersection of innovative technologies, visionary policies, environmental benefits and emerging market opportunities in the renewable energy sector. E3 2008 received generous support from Piper Jaffray, Faegre & Benson LLP, and numerous other sponsors and supporters. The 2009 conference takes place Nov. 17 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre. More info at

DIST: Usuals, radio and Capitol

Tags: Institute on Environment

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