What is Humanitarian Engineering good for?
Humanitarian Engineering -- what is it good for out in the real world? According to students who have participated in the groundbreaking interdisciplinary program, a whole lot...
Recent Mines graduate Nate Dauth has long been interested in international development. A few years back he helped found the Mines student chapter of Engineers Without Borders -- and made several construction trips to Nicaragua as a result.
EWB, he says, was "one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. The club gave me the opportunity to apply myself, allowed me to explore a new corner of the world, and showed me how a small group of inspired students can make a big difference."
Nate adds that "EWB provides incredible opportunities to learn and grow and I highly recommend that anyone join, especially if they're interested in humanitarian engineering or development work."
While not an official Humanitarian Engineering student himself, Nate calls the HE course Engineering and Sustainable Community Development "the most rewarding class I ever took in college."
Development, he discovered, is not just a matter of getting the technology right. You have to understand the cultural context as well. "Learning the context of why sustainable development is the way it is today was eye opening and it motivated me to continue learning about SCD. It was engaging, informative, and very much relevant to what I do now."
After graduation from Mines, Nate served as a Peace Corps volunteer (or PCV) in Paraguay, stationed in idyllic Capilla Cué east of the capital Asuncion, returning in 2016. The area's hills, forests, streams and waterfalls (left) give it the nickname "Eden of the Cordillera." His assignment involved environmental issues, including working with a farmer's organization to conserve fragile local soils. He also worked with a local youth group to take up conservation issues.
For recent Humanitarian Engineering Program graduate Molly Jane Roby (neé Perkins), the biggest storms used to come in June. "Right now it is time to batten down the hatches," they wrote. "The rains have started and they are gathering momentum. We get a storm about every 2 or 3 days. It builds up after an intense day of heat, with dark storm clouds over Togo, to the north-east of Zabzugu. The clouds move west within less than an hour, and the downpour begins."
In 2012, Molly and her husband Seth left Colorado to become Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana. (They finished their service in May 2014.)
Molly calls the Humanitarian Engineering capstone course, Engineering and Sustainable Community Development, the "best class" she ever took at Mines. It was, she says, the "class that prepared me for development work as an engineer."
"I guess the biggest takeaway I had from the Humanitarian Engineering Program is that development work (through HE) is not about showing people a new technology that they should use, but rather working with the people to understand what they need and show them that they can develop their own tools and technologies out of their own knowledge and local resources."
These days Molly and Seth are Peace Corps volunteer leaders, chosen from among their peers for their exemplary work and knowledge of community development.
Sheena Ong is a documentary filmmaker, engineer and member of Engineers Without Border from Australia who created a documentary film on humanitarian engineers. For the trailer of this film and for more information on this project please visit: http://the-humanitarian-engineer.com