Making an Impact Abroad with GMU’s Engineers for International Development

Trang Vu By: Trang Vu

Engineering is so much more than just designing plans for landscape and roadways, it really is an impactful skill that can make the world a better place.  Engineers for International Development at George Mason University (GMU EfID) is an organization that consists of students who participate in the community by designing and implementing sustainable engineering projects locally and internationally.

Our very own Elizabeth (Liz) Anderson from our Ashburn office is a GMU alumni and current member of GMU EfID. GMU EfID’s mission is to “educate communities about their basic infrastructure systems such as drinking water and sanitation” while fostering responsible leadership.

In January 2015, Liz and a team of 7 GMU EfID members took their initial trip to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua to gather GPS information, current water conditions, and assess the needs of citizens.   This data resulted in the identification of three major areas that required the most attention for improved infrastructure/sanitation systems - the Verbos Orphanage and the Verbos School, the feeding center, and the community of Betania, Nicaragua.  Back in the states, under the supervision of professional advisors, the team designed three systems to improve the quality of the water use at each Verbos campus: two new water distribution systems and a new septic system.

In May 2015, the GMU EfID team returned to Puerto Cabezas to implement their designs and gather more detailed data in the community of Betania. In Puerto Cabezas, the team spent a total of 7 days implementing the designs. Each member was placed on a team to focus efforts in implementing the project as efficiently as possible: the septic team, the electrical team, and the water distribution team.

Well pump and bladder tank that the team installed at the VERBO School (grey-water only)

The septic team was in charge of installing the two new septic tanks at the Verbos feeding center, the electrical team was in charge of installing the electrical system for the well pumps at both the Verbos feeding center and the Verbos School, and the water distribution team laid and installed the water pipes. Each team had a professional engineer supervising while also teaching the members.

New tank base the team designed and built

“Overall, it was an incredible and rewarding experience and it was awesome to use the knowledge gained in the classroom and apply it to real life problems to benefit those in need,” said Liz Anderson.

Due to their philanthropic efforts, GMU EfID won the 2015 NCEES Engineering Award for their 2013-2014 Water Supply, Distribution, and Storage Project in Sabana Grande, Nicaragua. The NCEES award is determined on a university’s ability to collaborate faculty, students and licensed professional engineers on a project. GMU EfID won a $7,500 grant from NCEES for their collaboration and hard work in Sabana Grande, Nicargaua. This award will help GMU EfID advance the partnership between student and professional engineers by giving them the ability to expand their projects and continue helping communities in Central America.

Liz with a monkey that lived at the VERBO campus

Here is a short video of GMU EfID’s recent trip: