Without Borders, A Lot Can Happen

Taylor Dupre’ is an engineering student who used his involvement in student organizations to extend his learning to outside of the classroom-and even outside the country.  After joining NIU’s Engineers Without Borders club (EWB) his freshman year, Taylor was interested from the get-go in EWB’s international partnerships.  Taylor was able to tell us all about his trip and how this will set him apart as he enters the professional world.

“It was basically on the ground floor, [EWB] just presented it like ‘hey we have this big opportunity, don’t really know where it’s going’ and I was hooked right there”.  Taylor said.  “At the time they were looking into solar installation in Tanzania.  I went to a general meeting and they were discussing all that stuff and looking to form a partnership and create a research initiative at NIU with the company iCATIS”. 

Taylor’s trip was a faculty directed independent study abroad that lasted a month and a half.  For the first half of the trip, he worked as an intern for iCATIS and then for the second half he went to a field school.  Throughout the trip, he traveled to Mexico City, Pueblo, and San Miguel working on ceramic filtration systems, water testing and rural/urban appropriate technology development.

“I really felt like there was a lot of resources and driven people that were really looking to make a difference, there was actual experience and I was able to be a part of real world change that you could see the effects of” Taylor said of the soft skills he learned.  “I think that’s one of the things that makes EWB really unique, this is something that the work that we do directly impacts the people we do it for in a big way; it’s their lives and the way that they live and the way that their communities work together”.

As far as hard engineering skills Taylor learned, he said there were so many different things that will help his professional career.

“I learned a lot about how to walk on to a site in rural settings and really look to develop those systems. Looking at what they have and what they need and kind of molding those systems with their resources” Taylor said.  “I had to think about how do I take all these resources and accomplish the goals I have set without really any major guidance, so professionally that was really awesome.  And I got to travel on my own which is a new experience”. 

Aside from the direct learning experiences, being in a different country alone was something that has helped shaped Taylor.

“In Mexico City, at the school, there were 30 of us from 27 different countries.  We were all living in one hostel together which was a completely new environment.  [I met] engineers from other countries and completely different education systems, different walks of life, and different cultures.  Seeing the different challenges they’ve encountered in their academic and professional careers was interesting.  And the world cup was going on at the time so that was really cool cause no matter who was playing, there were always people fiercely into it” Taylor said.

EWB takes a team down to Mexico every May with students from Engineering, Geology, Biology and Business departments.  Taylor went on the trip again this past may along with 18 other students and faculty.  EWB has an open working relationship with CATIS and they plan to go again in May 2015.  

The next project EWB is working on is helping a boys’ home in San Miguel that has a lot of needs structural, electrical, and water.  They’re looking for people to spearhead this project and build it from the ground up much like Taylor’s previous trip.  “They have a lot of needs and we have a lot of resources so we just need to prioritize them and make a long-term working relationship with them as well” Taylor added.

As far as advice for current engineering students goes, Taylor kept it short and simple with his rendition of “if there’s a will, there’s a way”. 

“There’s so much that went into planning this [trip] just from a logistics stand point, and it was kind of daunting at the beginning.  If you start early enough, and really know where your end goal is and how to make things happen, you can get things done”. 

If you are interested in any international development with EWB, you can go to one of their meetings on Wednesdays or contact Taylor Dupre’ at dupre.taylor@gmail.com.  

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