Montana State University

MSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders will host regional meeting

September 6, 2013 -- By Sepp Jannotta, MSU News Service

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BOZEMAN – Montana State University will play host to a Rocky Mountain regional meeting of Engineers Without Borders Oct. 4-6, giving the West’s chapters a chance to discuss their collective efforts to work with international communities and implement sustainable engineering projects.

The three-day conference for EWB student and professional members will feature hands-on sessions, lectures and social events.

“The conference is a chance for us to come together and find out what other chapters are doing and what their successes have been, as well as their failures,” said Cassidy Fisher, a junior mechanical engineering major and coordinator of the October conference. “And of course, we’re really excited to be representing MSU and showing off what EWB-MSU has accomplished.”

The group’s accomplishments continue to stand out.

Each summer since 2004, the MSU chapter of EWB has worked with the community in the Khwisero District of Kenya to implement clean water and sanitation projects. This summer has been no exception, with a total of 21 students in four rotations spending six weeks working in Kenya.

“It was great because we were able to get all our projects fully completed while we were over there, which doesn’t always happen,” Fisher said.

In 2011, EWB was honored as MSU received the prestigious C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, beating out some of the largest universities in the nation. The award came with a $20,000 prize, which MSU has put toward pilot programs to enable faculty teams from many different disciplines to develop outreach-focused coursework and mentor students.

With its commitment to implement clean water and sanitation systems at the 61 schools in Khwisero over a period that could last decades, EWB is recognized as one of the most ambitious and most successful student-led organizations in the university's history, with approximately 40 active students representing every college within the university.

Over the past nine years, more than 100 MSU students from many disciplines and majors have traveled to the region in western Kenya, where they have built 10 deep-water wells and 12 composting latrines in an effort to decrease the rate of waterborne illnesses. EWB-MSU has also contributed to a biogas-capturing and energy-producing latrine, a rainwater catchment system and the first phase of a water pipeline.

“We’re really proud of the pipeline, because the community has completed the second two phases entirely on their own,” said chapter president Bronwyn Rolph, a senior majoring in civil engineering,.

While work on the ground in Kenya is the point, Rolph noted that fundraising is just as critical to the group’s success as its organizational approach to engineering and carrying out projects in Khwisero.

The organization’s next fundraiser is the Clean Water for Kenya Jubilee, set for Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Grantree Inn. Those interested in attending can contact In the spring, EWB will host Junk 2 Funk, a recycled fashion show.

Rolph said EWB-MSU raised over $30,000 at last year’s Jubilee and had fundraised more than $100,000 by the beginning of this summer. The group turned that money around and put more than $70,000 of it into this summer’s construction of two wells and two composting latrines.

According to the EWB-USA website, Engineers Without Borders has 12,000 members. Since its founding in 2000 in Boulder, Colo., EWB has completed 350 projects in more than 45 developing countries, impacting the lives of millions of people around the world. There are more than 250 dedicated chapters, including university chapters on more than 180 campuses throughout the U.S.

Rolph said having a chapter at MSU has been a huge benefit to students.

“EWB-MSU gives students the opportunity to explore real engineering issues, to consider the complexity of international collaboration and to develop a deeper understanding of the world,” she said. “We work with an amazing community and we learn as much from them as they do from us. We are really grateful for the support we receive, both here in Bozeman and in Khwisero.”

Contact: Bronwyn Rolph, (206) 240-4021 or