CU-Boulder Professor Leads Initiative On Engineering For Developing Communities

Published: Aug. 28, 2002

Note to Editors: The initiative on Earth Systems Engineering at CU-Boulder and the work of the nonprofit Engineers Without Borders are described in a report being presented at the World Summit on Sustainable Development now convening in South Africa.

CU-Boulder civil engineering Professor Bernard Amadei recently traveled to Western Africa to introduce an evaporative cooling device in Mali and install a solar-powered water pump in Mauritania.

Neither project represents a high-tech engineering advancement, but the devices are helping both communities to meet basic human needs in a sustainable way, said Amadei, a University of Colorado at Boulder professor since 1982.

Struck by the tremendous needs of people living in poverty throughout the world, Amadei recently changed his focus from the teaching of engineering geology and rock mechanics to leading students in developing sustainable and appropriate technology solutions to a variety of problems involving water, sanitation, electricity, disease prevention and treatment, and shelter.

Amadei founded Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit organization in which students, faculty and professional engineers are working together to help developing communities with fundamental engineering and enterprise needs. The organization's goals include providing environmentally and economically sustainable technology to communities in the developing world, and giving students direct, hands-on experience with civil engineering in developing countries.

The first student chapter of EWB-USA was formed at CU-Boulder in fall 2001 after Amadei led a group of students in a water pump project for a village in Belize. Additional chapters are expected to be established at other universities in 2002-03.

"We see the developing world as the classroom of the 21st century," said Amadei. "We want to make students realize that engineering projects are more than just technology -- that there are strong socioeconomic components that are often not mentioned in engineering education. We want engineers of the future to make intelligent and harmless decisions that enhance the quality of life on Earth rather than endanger it."

Current EWB projects include:

* San Pablo, Belize - Design, construction and improvement of water distribution, sanitation and power generation systems;

* Punta Gorda, Belize - Technical assistance to the Tumul Kin Mayan Center of Learning;

* Foutaka Zambougou, Mali - Application of appropriate technology to solve water and electricity problems;

* Bir Moghrein, Mauritania - Design and construction of a photovoltaic water pumping system;

* Jalapa Valley, Nicaragua - Use of appropriate technologies to improve source water, sanitation, energy and communication;

* Santa Rita, Peru - Development of solutions for local rainfall-induced slope stability problems; and

* Bayonnais, Haiti - Provision of basic electricity to a rural school.

In conjunction with the nonprofit outreach organization, Amadei is establishing a new educational program at CU-Boulder in Engineering for Developing Communities. Part of a larger initiative in Earth Systems Engineering, the program represents a significant new focus in the College of Engineering and Applied Science on helping to meet the needs of the millions of people living in poverty around the world, including the United States.

Amadei's work to improve engineering education along with his volunteer efforts in founding Engineers Without Borders led to his selection for the 2002 Bank One Colorado Faculty Community Service Award, presented on Aug. 20.

"It is clear that engineers of the 21st century are called to play a critical role in contributing to peace and security in an increasingly challenged world," said Amadei. "There is a need for training a new generation of engineers who have the skills and tools appropriate to address the issues our planet is facing today and is likely to face within the next 20 years."

For more information visit and