Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) began with an idea: connect a developing community that has a specific infrastructure need to engineers who can partner with the community to design a sustainable solution.
In April 2000, a representative of the Belize Ministry of Agriculture invited Dr. Bernard Amadei, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado - Boulder, to visit a community in San Pablo, Belize, to assess the community's water supply. When Dr. Amadei visited the community, he learned that they lacked clean water and sanitation infrastructure. As a result, the local children spent a majority of their time carrying water for drinking and irrigation from miles away.
While the community had the resources and desire to sustain a water supply system, they lacked the specific engineering skill set to design the system. Professor Amadei connected the engineering skills of his students with the community in San Pablo to create a mutually beneficial partnership.
"As a civil engineer, I knew that there had to be something I could do. This was a prime example of how an emerging leader comes to life."- Dr. Bernard Amadei, EWB-USA Founder
Shortly after his first visit, Dr. Amadei returned to San Pablo with eight University of Colorado - Boulder engineering students and another civil engineering expert. In partnership with the community, the team installed a clean water system powered by a local waterfall. This simple, sustainable and low-cost solution was the first EWB-USA project.
Dr. Amadei decided to harness the power of professional and student engineers to complete similar low-tech, high-impact projects in other developing countries by officially founding Engineers Without Borders USA in 2002. The students at the University of Colorado - Boulder became the first EWB-USA student chapter following the San Pablo, Belize project. This chapter expanded to 96 students working on three projects by the end of 2002. These students gained soft skills not typically acquired in the engineering curricula.
This model of engineering students partnering with developing communities resonated in the engineering and university communities and EWB-USA chapters began expanding across the United States.
Since its incorporation in 2002, EWB-USA has grown from a handful of passionate individuals to an organization of more than 14,700 members. Through programs similar to our founding program in Belize, EWB-USA members have impacted more than 2.5 million lives around the world.