Engineers Without Borders Celebrates Completion of Project SEED

Five years ago, the Widener chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) set out on a mission to bring electricity to a small village in Panama. This March, the students completed that mission – as they were finally able to flip a switch and see light in Ella Drua for the first time.

EWB President Shawn Paul, '14, a junior civil engineering major with a minor in environmental science, participated in the first of the final completion phases. After joining EWB in his first week on campus as a freshman, Paul is happy to see Project SEED come to a close. "It's unbelievable," he said. "I've been working on this my whole college career."

In just a short amount of time at Widener, Paul has evidence of how he used engineering to change someone's life for the better – a whole village for that matter. EWB allowed him to discover his passion for civil engineering and helping others on a global scale.

Project SEED (Solar Energy for Ella Drua) began in 2008 when Widener alumna Alyssa Eagan, '05 – who was living in Ella Drua, Panama, on a Peace Corps assignment – connected with the engineering student group. The Widener EWB chapter had just started, and members had the drive to serve others in a global capacity. For nearly five years, the chapter has done just that and today has a final product to show off for its hard work.ewb

Over spring break this year, EWB members and Andy Nodolski, a lab technician in the School of Engineering and advisor to EWB, traveled to Panama to finalize work on Project SEED.

"Our goal from day one was to help provide necessities for the families, including having reading light for children to do their homework," Nodolski said, relishing his group's accomplishment.

EWB completed Project SEED in two final stages. Over winter break, students traveled to Ella Drua for nearly two weeks to build the infrastructure for the batteries and solar sites. On their second trip, they focused entirely on electrical work, including mounting and wiring solar panels, charging stations, and batteries, and finally, running the electrical service through all 20 homes in the village.

"Wiring service in a home is difficult as it is," Nodolski said, "Imagine doing it through a jungle."

EWB successfully provided 100 watts of power to all 20 homes in the village, which is enough to power a television, lap top, cell phone charger, and lights for five hours a day.

"Students got so much out of their time in Panama," Nodolski said. "They immersed themselves in the culture and gained knowledge that they apply here in the classroom and in their co-ops."

Widener's EWB looks to continue working with Ella Drua. Future projects include an assessment of the aqueducts so that the students can provide clean drinking water to the village. The students also hope to improve cooking conditions by building more effective stoves.


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