September 25, 2018 | ° F

Founder speaks on importance of service


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Photo by Alex Van Driesen |

Bernard Amadei, founder of Engineers Without Borders-USA, explains the roots of the foundation during the 28th annual Mason Welch Gross lecture yesterday at the Fiber Optic Lecture Hall on Busch campus.


Bernard Amadei promised hired landscapers in Colorado 13 years ago that he would use engineering to help people in their homeland, Belize. To keep his promise, he founded Engineering Without Borders-USA. Today, the foundation has about 12,000 members spread throughout the world, Amadei said.

Amadei presented on the importance of engineering in addressing international problems to an audience of about 150 University students at the Fiber Optics Auditorium on Busch campus.

The audience gathered for the 28th annual Mason Welch Gross lecture, where the Class of 1962 presents their Presidential Public Service Award each year.

Amadei, chosen to speak because the University student chapter of EWB-USA won the award in 2011, said he had told his landscapers he could use his engineering background to help improve conditions in Belize.  

After two years without correspondence, Amadei said he finally heard from one of the landscapers.

“In December of 1999, I received an email from one of them and he told me, ‘Hey, two years ago, I was in your backyard, [and] you mentioned that you could help, so it’s time to keep your promise,’” he said.

Amadei said he soon traveled to Belize and found children carrying water back and forth to their villages, a problem he knew needed a practical solution.

“[It] was the first time I was going to bring together my desire to help people and my engineering expertise,” he said.

Amadei said he found a waterfall at the end of a river near the village and started a $140,000 project on a pump to provide power to the village using the current.

Amadei said EWB-USA gives students a chance to leave the classroom and to apply what they learn to practical issues.

“[My students would say], ‘We are tired of doing problems from our textbooks, we want to do something different,’” he said.

Amadei said the motives behind his organization could be summarized by a quote from Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

EWB-USA has completed more than 350 different projects, according to EWB-USA website. The organization consists of engineering students, faculty and professionals nationwide working together on projects in more than 45 developing countries to help create sustainable living environments.

The University's EWB-USA chapter participates in projects that nclude providing heat to poor people in Kabul, Afghanistan, through an innovative method, which converted garbage into a flammable substance, Amadei said. The new method was a relief to the people who would otherwise depend on expensive wood purchases from Pakistan.

Elizabeth Silagi, a School of Engineering junior, said the lecture intrigued her and that it was not the first time she heard Amadei speak.

Richards L. Edwards, interim vice president for Academic Affairs, said the annual public service award ceremony would not have been possible without the aid of the University Class of 1962’s 50th anniversary fund.

“[The alumni of the Class of 1962] have generously supported an annual public service award that is awarded to students, faculty and staff and is presented at a ceremony in [University President Richard L. McCormick’s] home,” Edwards said.

Amadei’s story inspired some students, such as Josh David, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, and his goal to aid impoverished regions throughout the world with engineering.

“I thought [the lecture] was very moving,” David said. “It really made you think about engineering education and how there can be an impetus for social change from the perspective of someone with such a technical background.”

David said these types of lectures are important because it allows students to get an overview of some of the global problems such as poverty.

“It made me more aware of the issues and with that awareness I can take that and evaluate which career path I would like to pursue,” he said.


By Zachary Bregman

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