Engineers Without Borders

Spring 2015 Newsletter

Engineers Without Borders-Cornell

We are a student-run engineering project team at Cornell University, currently composed of 27 motivated and brilliant students with various backgrounds and interests in studies. Our mission is to provide students an opportunity to make a global impact by developing sustainable solutions to environmental problems in other countries. Our current project is to design a sustainable hanging bridge for safer access to the community's crops in Calcha, Bolivia. We are also researching different ways to purify their water and improve their potable water system. Please contact us for more information!

Meet the Travelers for the Summer Assessment Trip

Q & A

1. What are you most excited about for the upcoming trip to Bolivia?

2. What do you and the team hope to accomplish while in Calcha?

3. After hearing about last year's travel team adventures, what are you most nervous about in terms of the cultural differences and difficulties in Calcha?

4. How are you preparing yourself with the team and individually for the trip?

5. How do you think this trip will impact you and the team in the upcoming school year?

Nathalie DeNey

1. I am most excited about meeting all of the community members and really putting faces and names to all the people we are helping with our project!

2. I hope to firmly decide on a site for the bridge and water tank so that we can start designing our solutions with the site specifications in mind next semester.

3. I can’t speak any Spanish so I’m the most nervous about not being able to communicate with anyone.

4. Right now I’m preparing myself by getting all the necessary vaccinations and filling out health forms! We’re also all reviewing the manuals the teams have made throughout the school year and talking with Ricardo and our professional mentor to make sure we’re all prepared for everything we’ll have to do in Bolivia to have a successful assessment trip.

5. After this trip, I think our team is going to be given an even stronger sense of purpose and that will translate into an even more focused team effort next school year.

Meredith Lee

1. I am excited to return to Calcha and to have the opportunity to speak with the members of the community again and continue to strengthen our relationship.

2. While in Calcha, the team hopes to continue to gain the trust and support of the community. Additionally the team plans to collect more technical data related to both the water and bridge projects. The team hopes to choose a site location for the bridge and survey the site in order to begin the design process in the fall. The team also hopes to better calculate the demand for water so we can further explore the feasibility of our options on how to proceed to with water supply project.

3. Since I was a part of the travel team last year I know what to expect culturally and I am not nervous.

4. In preparation for the trip the team is meeting a weekly basis to discuss topics such as culture, expectations, and to go over the necessary technical data we will be collecting for both projects.

5. This trip will allow for the team to proceed in the design of the projects in the upcoming school year. With a site location selected the bridge subteam can begin the design process.

Susan McGrattan

1. I am most excited about traveling to a new country and getting to know the community. I have never been to South America before and am excited to experience the culture and daily life of people in the community.

2. I hope to get a better understanding of the community's needs and gather enough information for our team to begin designing solutions. There are some important technical questions that need to be answered so we can provide the team at home with as much helpful data as possible.

3. I am most nervous about the language barrier because I do not speak any Spanish and will have a more difficult time communicating with the community members. Our translators should help resolve this issue.

4. I am preparing for the trip by making sure that we know exactly what information needs to be gathered and how to do so. As the Health and Safety Officer, I am also making sure that I am prepared for an emergency so the trip will be safe and successful.

5. This trip will answer a lot of questions and provide the team with valuable technical data. We can use this information in the upcoming year to turn our research into actual designs that will hopefully be implemented in the next few years.

Raquel Zerbib

1. I'm excited to meet the community members of Calcha and gain a more personal connection to the project.

2. I hope that we are able to gather all the necessary information to be able to design and implement the bridge as well as make advancements in the water project.

3. After hearing about last year's travel team experiences I am most nervous about the lack of access to sanitation during the overall trip.

4. We have weekly travel meetings where we discuss the goals we need to accomplish, the more technical aspects of the trip, and what to expect from the community.

5. I believe that this trip is a once in a lifetime experience and I am very excited to be part of it. In regards to the impact on the team I believe that the information that we bring back will make it possible to make large advancements within the bridge and water teams.

Updates from EWB-Cornell Subteams

The Bridge Subteam

This semester, the Bridge Subteam took a different approach to the project at hand. Through dividing into multiple smaller teams (Concrete Research, Surveying, Soil Research, and Calcha Community Impact), the Bridge Subteam has been able to add further structure to the group. Each of the smaller subteams have made significant strides in research, especially as the second assessment trip draws near.


The Concrete Research Team has been working to determine the feasibility of sturdy and cost efficient pillars. The Surveying Team has been focusing its research on the elevation, water levels and overall topology of the region. Through researching current topological maps, this team is attempting to determine the ideal location for the bridge. Meanwhile, the Soil Research Team is examining the soil samples to provide an understanding of the bridge anchor depth to ensure maximum stability while still maintaining efficient structure. Lastly, the Calcha Community Impact team has been working to research and understand the laws surrounding the creation of the bridge. We are aiming to build the bridge on public property to ensure that there are no disputes in the future that may prevent the bridge from being accessed by the general public. Overall, this semester has been extremely productive for the bridge team!

The Water Subteam

The water team experimented with a new structure for this semester through breaking into three groups to gain more accurate and in-depth research on possible solutions for the water shortage in Calcha. The three proposals that each small group worked on was proposed to the whole team, where the team discussed the feasibility as well as impact of each of the solutions. These three solutions were a Rain Water Catchment System, a Storage Tank, and Water Treatment. Through a combination of each of these aspects, we are creating the ideal project plan for Calcha.


To go a bit more into depth, the Water Treatment Team has been looking into the possibility of contaminants in different sources of water including the river, rainwater and a pipeline. Although progress has been made on the treatment plan, there are many pieces of missing information necessary to ensure that our water solution is the most effective for the community’s problem. We expect to collect this information on our upcoming trip in order to greatly clear some of the ambiguities facing the team. Furthermore, the Storage Tank Team has been investigating two possibilities: 1) How the community can utilize the current storage tank that is already present in the community and 2) how the water tank will be able to provide sufficient water throughout the year. Lastly, a solution to the water shortage that Calcha is facing that we are currently evaluating is a Rain Water Catchment System that will harvest water from either the existing rooftops of buildings or from the ground. This is a low cost, easy to implement solution that ensures clean water but, because there is so little rain in the region, it is unclear if it is the best solution. The travel team is going to investigate the true extent of the water shortage problem in order to define a more conclusive solution.

The Business Subteam

With the help of sponsors and alumni, EWB has been able to raise enough money to send four students for the second assessment trip to Bolivia! The Business Subteam has been hard at work subsidizing the costs of the trip this summer through holding multiple fundraisers throughout the semester including Candy Grams for Valentine’s Day, a Guestimation Challenge where students guessed the number of Sour Patch Candies in a jar to win a small prize, a Tie-Dye/Henna Booth at the annual Agriculture Day, and other tie-dye events. These fundraisers have been successful due to the overwhelming support of the team and the Cornell Community. Once again, thank you for all of the continued support! All of the funds that EWB raises goes directly to the engineering of solutions that will create actual impact on those living in Calcha, Bolivia as well as create unmatched opportunities for EWB members.

Fundraisers Galore, Once Again!

Thank You for Your Support!

In late November, EWB-Cornell launched the Year-End-Giving Campaign to raise awareness and support for our project. Thanks to your generous and kind donations, we raised more than $3,000 just from this campaign! We are so grateful for each and every one of your support and interest in our project. Because of our friends, families, and alumni, we are one step closer to building a sustainable bridge and implementing a water system in Calcha, Bolivia!

2nd Annual Ice Skating Fundraiser

What's a better way for team members to gain leadership skills and experience team-bonding than organizing fundraisers? Engineers Without Borders-Cornell kicked off this spring semester with its Annual Skate Night Fundraiser. Over winter break, the business subteam meticulously organized and coordinated with Cornell faculty members, local businesses (Collegetown Bagels, Insomnia Cookies, and Starbucks), and the rest of the EWB team to make this fundraiser a success. More than 150 Cornell students attended the event, mingled over delicious cookies and bagels, and enjoyed skating the night away with their friends! Thanks to our supportive friends and classmates, the Annual Skate Night Fundraiser raised more than $1,000 and raised awareness on our mission and project in Calcha, Bolivia.

Celebrating Earth Day: Ag Day Fundraiser!

This year, Engineers Without Borders-Cornell joined Cornell’s Alpha Zeta Fraternity to bring tie-dye and henna events to the annual Ag Day. By partnering with Alpha Zeta, we aimed to expand our community involvement outside of engineers and participate in events that would further our name and cause to the broader Cornell community. To liven up the spring spirit of Cornell’s final weeks, we brought interactive and engaging activities to other students. We hosted a tie-dying station where students could purchase and tie-dye their own shirts as well as pick and get a henna artwork design. Overall this experience helped spread EWB’s name in the broader Cornell community in a fun and interactive way. It was also a great way for team members to enjoy nature and interact with one another outside of the work environment. With revenues higher than expected, the money that we raised will benefit EWB’s project and the upcoming summer assessment trip!

Thank you for your support & see you next year!