CU-Boulder Engineering Professor Wins Norm Augustine Award

Published: June 15, 2005

University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Bernard Amadei has been awarded the American Association of Engineering Societies' Norm Augustine Award in recognition of his passion and commitment to training globally responsible engineering students.

Amadei is the founding president of Engineers Without Borders-USA, a nonprofit organization that partners with developing communities to meet their needs for water, sanitation and energy systems.

The organization, which has about 2,300 members and 65 student and professional chapters across the country, is currently involved in more than 80 engineering projects in 35 countries. Through volunteer labor, donations and use of sustainable technologies, EWB-USA has been able to assist dozens of communities around the world, while providing opportunities for engineering students to apply their knowledge and skills to help the people who need it most.

A professor of civil engineering who initially focused his career on rock mechanics and engineering geology, Amadei is now leading a philosophical shift in engineering education and practice at CU-Boulder known as Earth Systems Engineering. The initiative emphasizes the interaction between engineering structures and natural systems and the critical role that engineers must play in enhancing the quality of life on Earth.

As part of the initiative, Amadei also started the Engineering for Developing Communities program at CU-Boulder. The program's mission is to educate globally responsible students who can offer sustainable and appropriate technology solutions to the endemic problems faced by developing communities worldwide.

"I spent 25 years of my life practicing engineering for the rich," Amadei said. "The work I do now, which focuses on helping people in the developing world, is much more rewarding, much closer to my heart."

He believes that engineers have an obligation to provide solutions to meet the basic needs of all human beings for water, sanitation, food, health and energy, while at the same time protecting cultural and natural diversity.

"Improving the lives of the 5 billion people whose main concern is to stay alive by the end of each day on our planet is no longer an option for engineers; it is an obligation," he said.

The response from students has been overwhelming, he added. "We have a new generation of engineering students who are really looking for a meaningful purpose in their education and want to be of service to the world."

The American Association of Engineering Societies established the Norm Augustine Award in 1998 to honor "those rare individuals who can speak with passion about engineering -- its promise as well as its responsibility."

The award was named for its first recipient, the former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. who is one of the titans of the engineering profession. Subsequent recipients include such engineering notables as Neil Armstrong and Edmund Schweitzer.