Recent News

General Meeting Tuesday, October 29

posted Oct 24, 2013, 5:40 PM by Memphis Ewb

Free Bolivian food!!! Our chapter of EWB is partnered with a small Quechuan community in the Altiplano region of Bolivia. Come hear a presentation over the history and culture of the Quechua people all the way back to the Inca Empire! The meeting is Tuesday, 10/29/13 at 3pm in EA 102D.

Service Project at Memphis Academy of Urban Farming

posted Oct 24, 2013, 5:40 PM by Memphis Ewb

EWB is working with Memphis Academy of Urban Farming this Saturday, October 26, to frame in a new greenhouse! We'll meet in the U of M parking lot on Central, in front of the engineering complex at 9am and head to the work site. Pitch in and do some good in your community!

Update on Progress in Bolivia

posted Oct 8, 2013, 12:28 PM by Memphis Ewb   [ updated Oct 8, 2013, 12:30 PM ]

Here is an article from the U of M newsletter about our progress in Bolivia:

Southeast Regional Conference Coming Soon

posted Sep 13, 2013, 11:49 AM by Memphis Ewb

The Southeast Regional Conference for Engineers Without Borders will be held October 4-6 in Atlanta at Georgia Institute of Technology. Registration is $70 before September 19. For more information and to register:

Global Innovations Forum - Pathways to Sustainable Development

posted Mar 29, 2013, 8:59 AM by Memphis Ewb   [ updated Mar 29, 2013, 9:00 AM ]

What are the keys to success when it comes to international development? How do NGOs move from well-intended charity to lasting sustainable development? Tune in to a free live broadcast on April 6 for an interactive discussion with international development experts from Engineers Without Borders USA, iDE and Community Solutions Initiative (IEEE), Bridges to Prosperity, iCATIS and Regis University. 

Register for the free broadcast and watch from your home, or join us at the University of Memphis in ES 114 from 11:00am - 1:30pm! 
iDECommunity Solutions IniativeIEEE PES Bridges to ProsperityiCatisRegis University

EWB-USA Match Campaign Results

posted Mar 25, 2013, 9:31 AM by Memphis Ewb

During the end of the year match campaign hosted by EWB-USA, the University of Memphis chapter was able to raise $8,617.50. Sincere thanks goes out to each of the donors below who supported the mission and vision of EWB. 
 Lily Arango    The University of Memphis  West TN Branch ASCE Ann MeierFarid Javadnejad 
Sarah Fahrer Engineer's Club of Memphis  Robert McIvorNajmeh Jami  Marty Lipinski
 William SeguiDebra Swindoll Leeanne Fox Sam Jordan  George Tamula

Your support allows our chapter to continue working with the community of Yarvicoya to meet their needs. 

EWB-USA Matching Campaign!

posted Nov 27, 2012, 6:19 AM by Memphis Ewb   [ updated Nov 27, 2012, 6:23 AM ]

EWB-USA will match each dollar donated now through January 15th for donations of at least $5 or more! To donate simply click on the 'DONATE NOW!' button to the left of the screen, or follow this link to view our fundraising page and make a donation there. Whether $5 or $500 your donation is making a difference!

Yarvicoya Assessment Summary

posted Nov 4, 2012, 5:25 PM by Memphis Ewb   [ updated Dec 27, 2012, 5:05 PM ]

Our team accomplished a lot during our 8 day stay in the community of Yarvicoya. Though we initially thought we were entering the community to do an assessment for a potable water supply, we knew we had to be flexible to their ever changing needs. The most difficult obstacle encountered was working with the community to come up with a list of priorities. 


Our NGO, Afnan, stated something along the lines of, “The engineering required in most of these communities is easy. It’s the social aspect, relating to the community, and gaining their trust that is the hard part.” This may have been more difficult for our chapter than some others, since our community has had previous groups come and go leaving nothing more than a heap of concrete with a failed project behind. However, our third night there we did get through, and they provided us with a list of 5 priorities in order of most to least important:

1)      Repair the current irrigation system and build a storage tank to supply irrigation for their crops during the dry season.

2)      Build a wall around the school house to keep other communities from vandalizing the school.

3)      Construct a new potable water system that uses the same source as the irrigation water supply.

4)      Build solar showers, latrines, and build pedestrian bridges between the neighborhoods.

5)      Build stalls for each family's animals.

The common thread for each of the projects listed above is a reliable water supply, which the community does not have right now. We were able to collect enough data that will allow us to determine alternatives to provide the best/most reliable water supply to the community for irrigation and drinking water.

Currently, groundwater is being evaluated for quality and quantity for irrigation. Potentially it could be used for potable water also with biosand filters installed in each home. These are preliminary ideas, though, and will have to be better evaluated after speaking to the Mayor in Bolivar, the community, and Engineers In Action (EIA).

For an in depth look at the activities that took place, read the daily blog that was written post-assessment. If you have any questions, or require additional information feel free to contact us! 

Yarvicoya Assessment Trip Daily Blog

posted Nov 4, 2012, 4:48 PM by Memphis Ewb   [ updated Nov 4, 2012, 5:21 PM ]

Day 0 (10/11/2012) –

After we landed in La Paz, we began walking towards customs and our hearts were racing. Not so much from the nerves as it was from the fact that our bodies were in shock from landing at almost 13,000 ft. The line was about 2 hours too long and the heat was blasting. We watched customs officers shuffle people through as quickly as possible, but the majority of people were applying for a Visa in the same line, which kept the pace unbearably slow.

After making it through security, we were immediately greeted by our NGO from Engineers in Action, Afnan Agramont. As we headed toward his vehicle outside, the view was jaw dropping. Everything was covered in snow from a storm system that had just swept through, and the Andes were towering in the distance. We got our luggage in the vehicle and pilled in, so that he could check us into our hotel rooms at the hotel El Dorado in downtown La Paz. To get to the hotel, Afnan had to navigate through the streets of El Alto that drop about 3,000 ft. in less than a mile to get to La Paz. In a city where traffic signals are suggestions, and the car horn is how a driver negotiates position in traffic, we arrived at our destination in no time. The majority of streets in La Paz were paved brick, the buildings were covered in graffiti, the animals roamed free and were found in accumulation near unofficial trash dumps, and soccer stadiums were plentiful.


After checking into our hotel rooms, Afnan took us to Alexander’s for some of the best coffee and breakfast in the city. Before entering Alexander’s though, we had to play Frogger to get across the street. We learned quickly that pedestrians yield to vehicles every time. Dr. Arellano, Stephen, and I then walked around the city, passing vendors selling food, clothing, sunglasses, etc. along the side of the road. The indigenous women running the booths wore colorful awayos stuffed to the brim with sellables (or babies) and bowler hats. We then met up with Afnan for dinner. Obviously, once I saw that the menu had an assortment of llama products, I had to try the llama steak. Delicious. At dinner, we discussed the upcoming trip to the community of Yarvicoya and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before the long drive in the morning.

Day 1 (10/12/2012) –

The next morning we met Afnan in the lobby of our hotel around 7:30am, where we then convinced him to take us to Alexander’s Coffee before our 6 hour long journey to Yarvicoya. We then pulled in front of EIA’s driveway, where we met our cook, Catita, and our translator, Luigi. Everyone began working to pile the luggage on top of the Toyota 4x4 land cruiser. Once everything was carefully placed into a giant heap on top and tied down, we crammed into the back of the vehicle and began our journey to Yarvicoya.

After passing several small towns, we stopped in Oruro for lunch and continued our journey (most of which was now on gravel roads as opposed to the paved roads that connected a little over half of our journey). Much of the view along the way looked similar to that of a desert environment. The colors were mostly grey/brown which contrasted spectacularly with the deep blue of the sky.

Before we knew it, we arrived in the city of Bolivar, which is also the county that our community resides in. We checked to make sure that our bedding, straw mattresses, had been delivered to the community. Turns out the mattresses had not been delivered, so while the county scrambled together 10 mattresses we continued our journey to the community. Little did we know that the community had never been informed that we were coming in to work with them. After introducing ourselves and some convincing, the hilanko and didihenta (leaders of the community) were generous enough to provide us with a building to set up camp.


Day 2 (10/13/2012) –

Around 6:00am, the didihenta stood on top of the hill right outside the building we were sleeping in and began yelling out a call for a meeting. This call continued for about an hour and a half until there were about 20 members from the community agglomerated on top of the hill. Stephen then introduced our chapter and our purpose for being in the community. He explained that we would like to work with them for any needs they currently have despite the fact that we originally came into the community to work on a potable water distribution system. The community members discussed their needs back and forth and finally agreed to meet with us at a later time so they could have time to come up with a list of priorities.


The hilanko then walked us through the community to look at the current water distribution system and irrigation system. He took us through neighborhood 1 (Champaranchoo), which is the only of the 4 neighborhoods that has a working distribution system. UNICEF, a group that previously worked in the community installed a water tank, well, and distribution system, but the system had several issues that eventually caused the system to break within a year or two of installation. The municipality worked in the community and built a piping system that distributes water from a spring 5 kilometers north of the community to the reservoir tank. Each family housing unit had a water faucet outside, and the homes that did not have a faucet were the members that did not help build the system. Currently, Champaranchoo has 23 faucets that work, as long as the reservoir tank is filled with water. Unfortunately, the current gravity fed distribution system breaks about 8 times a year for various reasons.


He then walked us along most of the length of the irrigation system. The municipality of Cochabamba installed the concrete portion of the irrigation system about 12 years prior, so there were several leaks and breaks on the system. The gravity fed irrigation system gets its water from about 5 kilometers west of the community. The mountain stream that provides the water goes dry for about 2-3 months out of the year.

After viewing the current systems, we challenged the community to a game of soccer. The soccer stadium was a small concrete area with soccer goals and basketball hoops. Despite the incredibly noticeable effects of the altitude, we managed to win 1 out of the 3 games we played. Stephen then presented a new soccer ball to the didihenta.

Day 3 (10/14/2012) –

We met with the leaders that morning and agreed to have a meeting later in the day to discuss what the top 5 priorities are within the community. Before the meeting took place, we walked around each neighborhood to determine where people got their drinking water from and to determine what systems may or may not be in place. Cochapata also had a well that UNICEF had installed. Currently, it is waiting on the municipality to install electricity so that the pump will work. However, it is not known what the water quality is like, or whether the system will work even with the electricity. The people in Cochapata get their water from the river bed, or by digging shallow wells to get groundwater. This seemed to be a pretty common occurrence among the neighborhoods.


Team 2 – Brad Davis, Nick Street, and Staci Somerville – arrived in the community that evening. We all then went to the adult literacy center within the community to meet with representatives from the community, as well as the leaders. They gave us a list of priorities in the order from most to least important to them. The list is as follows:

1)      Repair the current irrigation system and build a storage tank to supply irrigation for their crops during the dry season.

2)      Build a wall around the school house to keep other communities from vandalizing the school.

3)      Construct a new potable water system that uses the same source as the irrigation supply.

4)      Build solar showers, latrines, and build pedestrian bridges between the neighborhoods.

5)      Build stalls for each families animals.

With the list of priorities given our team was able to determine which tasks to complete in the remaining time in the community. The common thing needed for most of these tasks is a reliable water source. So the focus of the rest of the assessment was to determine the best water source for drinking and irrigation.

Day 4 (10/15/2012) –

At the team meeting that morning, we agreed to inspect the current water source and UNICEF storage tank. Additionally, we inspected the out of use UNICEF well, obtained locations for each water faucet, inspected the new potential water source (that the community spoke about in the meeting the previous day), started the health assessment, and played soccer with the kids again.


Simple methods were used to determine the flow rates of the current spring source and the new potential surface water site. Though the flow rate of the new source was significantly higher, the hilanko did tell us that it dries up periodically. The new stream water source also feeds the community to the west of Yarvicoya, which could impact that communities water supply negatively. Groundwater was another option thought of that the community hadn’t mentioned. However, the lack of reliability of the surface water sources, it may be a better option if designed and planned correctly.


After all the technical tasks were accomplished, it was game on time again with the kids in the community. Luckily, Team 2 was comprised of soccer players who were able to keep up much better than the first attempt at soccer!

Day 5 (10/16/2012) –

A group sampled water from potential new stream source, groundwater, and from the UNICEF storage tank that is currently feeding water to the community. During the sampling, the group discovered that the storage tank was out of water, and hadn’t been getting a new supply of water from the spring since earlier the previous day.

Meanwhile, another group spoke to the municipality to discuss the possibility of the municipal paying for a portion of the installation of a water well in the community. Talks with the Mayor went well. He verbally agreed to support the project monetarily if we could provide a reproducible method to finding a dependable water source. The Mayor also agreed to let our team use a backhoe to dig test pits within the community to get a general idea of the soil stratigraphy and groundwater depths at various locations. During this trip to Bolivar, Staci and Dr. Arellano spoke with health officials for a portion of the health assessment. They discovered that health records for each specific community didn’t exist. The records only existed for the entire county, which encompasses about 60 communities total.


Once both teams met up again, the water samples were handed off to Afnan so he could take them back to the lab in La Paz. Our NGO, Marcos, spoke with the community about the communities water supply running out. The hilanko and a few water technicians from the municipality set out to fix the blockage. Armed with a hack saw, some inner tube rubber, and connection pieces they began walking the line of pipe. After breaking the line in several places and using suction to get the water flowing, the leak was mostly fixed.

Day 6 (10/17/2012) –

Several tasks ran simultaneously this day. We began surveying, finishing the health assessment, inspected the second UNICEF well in Cochapata, inspected the irrigation system, and had a final meeting with the community later in the day.


About mid-day, all activities came to a halt when a storm popped up. Since the community is located at the bottom of a basin, the wind came rushing in from all of the hills around and created a sand/wind storm with incredible lightning. Snow pellets began falling and 30 minutes later the storm had passed.


Later that night, we met with the community and its leaders for the final time. The community stressed that they do not want a pump if they have to pay for electricity. They would prefer to have the gravity fed system that they suggested in the previous meeting. However, they would be agreeable to a well/pump system if we could get the municipal to pay for electricity. Additionally, they want the same system installed in Cohchapta and Champaranchoo. We agreed to do this if we raised enough money, but didn’t promise anything at that time. A Memorandum of Understanding was requested before we left the community, so that it is understood what each party’s role is in any upcoming projects.

Day 7 (10/18/2012) –

We began surveying early this day, so that everyone could watch the backhoe dig test pits. It was our hopes that the backhoe would hit water so member of the community would be excited about the possibility of groundwater. Each test pit was dug to about 10 ft., and the first two pits never hit water. However, the third pit hit water at about 3 ft.


After the test pits were dug, a site was evaluated for a potential irrigation reservoir tank. The site is higher than the current UNICEF water tank, which would ensure that the water could be fed by gravity into the irrigation ditches and canals.


A draft of the Memorandum of Understanding between the community and our chapter was then written, translated, and handed over to the hilanko to sign. The children from the community then swarmed our courtyard for one final game of soccer. After that, we then began getting ready for our trip back to La Paz the next morning.

Day 8 (10/19/2012) –

We packed up and said our goodbyes to the children who came to visit us daily and then packed into the Land Rover for our final journey back to LaPaz. On the journey back, we got our last looks at the llamas and alpacas roaming the countryside and talked about our final shopping endeavors that would have to happen before the first group of people flew out the next morning.  As an extra bonus, we got to change a flat tire on the side of a Bolivian highway, which was just another highlight of the cultural experience!



Tiger Blue Turns Green

posted Oct 25, 2012, 12:21 PM by Memphis Ewb

Our chapter participated in the University of Memphis's 'Tiger Blue Turns Green' festival this semester. Some highlights from the festival are shown below. Learn more about Engineers Without Borders and our project in Yarvicoya!

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