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Meet the USF chapter of Engineers Without Borders

The University of South Florida's Engineers Without Borders Chapter (USF-EWB) comprises of student members who envision a world with adequate sanitation, safe drinking water, and proper resources for engineering or economic development needs. USF's Engineers Without Borders, led by Leonardo Pernia and Chase Royall, strives to improve access to water and sanitation resources in Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. Their efforts also impact and improve the local Tampa area communities - like building community gardens or a "living wall" on campus.

Water for Miramar - Miramar, Dominican Republic


2019 Implementation Trip - Dominican Republic 

The longest-running project for USF's Engineers Without Borders is their sustainable water source project in the Miramar, Miches community in the Eastern Dominican Republic. The USF team became involved in 2008 and has since made implementation trips in 2015, 2019 and 2023. During these implementation trips, the group brainstormed the best possible solution to provide a sustainable water source to the community - ultimately settling on a rainwater catchment system.

USF-EWB finally returned to Miramar in March 2023 as the COVID-19 pandemic delayed their implementation projects. During this trip, they gathered valuable data about water sources and usage. The group also learned that the local government would be aiding in providing an aqueduct and water treatment system that should allow for more comfortable water situations for daily use - UWF-EWB will maintain continuous contact with the community and local engineers on this project. 

The USF-EWB team has thoroughly enjoyed working with the community and getting to know them through attending local meetings, community gatherings and dinners, "They are loving and grateful for any help we provide. Even the effort they see is something that they appreciate, and our club is very appreciative of their support and trust in us" said Leonardo Pernia. 

Latrines for Teneria - Sorata, Bolivia

USF-EWB Bolivia

2018 Assesment Trip - Bolivia

USF-EWB began its involvement in Bolivia in 2018, specifically in a rural community named Unificada Teneria Y Manzanani, which currently has no way of collecting and treating waste, posing a significant health and environmental hazard for a community reliant on agriculture. 

They have spent substantial time considering the best possible solution to this challenge. "The team has looked at many solutions, from composting toilets to many different types of latrines," said Pernia. Ultimately settling on a twin pit pour-flush latrine - utilizing two pits for waste and a valve to switch the waste's destination. The two-pit system also allows waste to mature, making the removal and emptying process safer. 

The almost finalized design is in the final stages of completion as the EWB team is looking to add further innovative solutions, like raising the bottom of the pit to make emptying the latrines easier for the community.

The next step in the Bolivia project is traveling to the site - the implementation trip has faced several challenges as delays around issues with implementation documentation, political unrest and severe weather have arisen.

The Bolivia team remains optimistic regarding travel timelines, focusing on fundraising initiatives to help send as many students as possible to the community. They hope to finalize trip plans and begin implementation in the upcoming academic year.

Local Community Projects - Tampa, Florida

USF EWB Group Photo

USF-EWB Community Garden Project 

Community projects for USF-EWB are a huge opportunity to give back to the university and the Tampa area. These projects offer students the ability to be hands-on and gain practical experience designing and implementing real projects - which is valuable practice for their projects in Bolivia and the Dominican Republic.

The club worked on a community greenhouse project in the spring of 2023, otherwise known as the Harvest Hope Community Garden, which the local project group designed, demoed and built. USF-EWB plans to design and implement a "living wall" in the Design for X Laboratory for the upcoming year. The living wall is a self-supporting irrigation system that sustains various plants indoors. 

Student Impact

Leonardo Pernia highlights the club's ability to retain new members year-over-year and emphasizes the value of student involvement in both local and international projects. Participation in the club's projects plays a significant role in many member's experiences at USF and helps prepare them for their engineering careers. "In EWB, our projects model more what engineers will experience in real life, with projects lasting years, some even outlasting our time in the club. This gives us the unique experience in planning and thinking ahead that is impossible to gain elsewhere," said Pernia.

Members who join EWB are passionate about giving back through their engineering knowledge. "Knowing that I could be a part of coming up with engineering solutions that have a positive impact on other people's lives was really exciting to me." said member Maddy about her motivation for joining. 

Contact USF-EWB:

USF Engineers Without Borders Website

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