As an engineer, there are so many opportunities for you to positively impact our region and society. Through student organizations, SIUE engineering students volunteer their time and energy to community projects and third-world initiatives while preparing themselves to take on the challenges they will face as professionals.
Here are some examples of recent outreach initiatives.
The Construction of Fun
Melissa Stoltz, park committee treasurer in Summerfield, Ill., lives across the street from the community park. She enjoys watching kids play on the playground. The park is the only place for them to play in the small community of 500 residents. So, when the park commission received a grant to replace their park's outdated 60-year-old playground equipment, community members were very excited-especially the kids.
"Once we got the equipment and found out how expensive it would be to install, we were lost," Stoltz said. "Our grant writer literally got out the phonebook and started calling private companies and universities, looking for someone who would volunteer to install the equipment and not charge us the estimated $7,000 installation costs."
The SIUE School of Engineering construction department was the only one who returned the call, and the Constructors Club willingly stepped up to volunteer.
"We were excited to get out and use our knowledge to build something," said senior construction management student Garth Hand, who was in charge of managing the project. He coordinated the logistics of bringing volunteers to the site, assigned volunteers to tasks and was responsible for troubleshooting the installation process. "We broke down into groups as we would on an actual construction site," Garth said. "I learned how to organize and schedule so that everything was completed on time."
The group put in a total of about 300 hours and got the job done quickly. It was not an easy job, by any means. Students first had to survey the area, then they drilled 34 concrete footings, assembled the playground pieces, set anchoring pieces in the foundation holes and poured the concrete. Once the project was finished, village inspectors looked over the work and declared it to be rock-solid, safe and ready for use.
Summerfield residents, park committee members and the mayor helped the Construction Club with mulching and other finishing steps. Stoltz praised the students' work. "They were very professional and worked extremely well together," she said. "Everyone from Summerfield was amazed at how quickly the playground went together. This was a very important project for our community. The students had it all figured out and did an excellent job."
The Constructor's Club Summerfield Playground Installation Project was chosen for the 2010 Outstanding Community Service Project of the Year by the SIUE Kimmel Leadership Center.
Shane Richardson has seen first-hand the challenges faced by people living in developing countries. The civil engineering major from Collinsville has visited Haiti twice for mission trips, traveled extensively during his five years in the Navy and most recently spent time in Honduras. "We don't realize how in need people are," he said. "It's not just third world countries-there are even parts of Italy in need of clean drinking water."
When he learned about Engineers Without Borders (EWB), he knew he had to be involved. EWB is a national organization of professional engineers and engineering students committed to improving the basic quality of life to all people around the globe through sustainable engineering projects. Shane created an EWB student chapter at SIUE in fall 2008, and the newly formed group got right to work. This past summer, seven SIUE EWB chapter members traveled to Pimienta, Honduras, with members of the St. Louis EWB professional chapter.
"Pimienta's mayor is trying his best to improve the quality of life for residents," Shane said. "Nearly 30 homes were built a few years ago, but unfortunately, they were built quickly and with no engineering forethought for sustainability." The group improved infrastructure in the small Honduran community by building a more than 50-foot retaining wall to stabilize a portion of the terraced housing development, installing a composting toilet, and developing infrastructure for waste water and erosion control.
Shane and his fellow students applied what they are learning in the classroom while helping other people in extraordinary ways. Students witnessed a "sense of pure joy" from members of the Pimienta community, despite their subpar living conditions. "These people were happy to be alive," Shane said. "There was visible pleasure in everything they did. They were so grateful to have us there.
"This experience was more beneficial than any class I could take," Shane continued. "I will be able to take the engineering design experience forward with me to future employment opportunities." The SIUE team is currently designing a storm water and runoff drainage plan for the Pimienta community and will return to Pimienta this summer to construct gutters for the homes and drainage ditches for the area. The students are completing the plan for their Senior Assignment, an integrative learning experience required of all seniors prior to graduation.