Community-driven development: A closer look at Engineers Without Borders

Engineers+Without+Borders+is+currently+working+on+seven+projects+in+the+Easton+community.+Photo+taken+pre-COVID-19.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Michael+Aronson+23%29

Engineers Without Borders is currently working on seven projects in the Easton community. Photo taken pre-COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Michael Aronson ’23)

Paige Mathieu

In 2018, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) had a membership of one. Now a club of 35 students, EWB has been leaving its impact on the local community through multiple ongoing projects and a community-driven focus.

EWB was revived by Sasha Neefe ’21 in 2018. The club allow students to use the skills they are learning in the classroom and apply them to volunteer projects on campus and in the greater Easton community.

At the moment, EWB is working on seven short- and long-term projects under the leadership of President Michael Aronson ’23 and Vice President Jed Alterman ’23, all focused on the themes of community-driven development and sustainability.

“Community-driven development…it’s to ensure that we don’t just go doing what we want to do, we need to do the things that the community needs,” explained Neefe. “And sustainability is a really large part of that, so if we try to do a project that the community doesn’t really need then it won’t be sustainable… it will kind of just sit there, it won’t be fixed over the years, it won’t be upheld well by the community because they never asked for it to be done.”

The club is working with LafKid Connect, a mentorship program run by Lafayette students that provides support to local middle schools, as well as Community Bike Works in Allentown to encourage young students to pursue higher education and STEM.

EWB has also been consulting with the Director of Public Works in Easton regarding the refurbishment of a railroad bridge on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail. At the same time, they are in the process of building two benches at the Easton Urban Farm to provide a more comfortable place for elderly volunteers to sit.

Sketch of bridge
The EWB team constructed a CAD model of the bridge on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail. (Photo courtesy of Michael Aronson ’23)

EWB has also been working with the Easton Community Gardens to help revamp their watering system and the college’s Dyer Center to transition the pop-up thrift store into a mobile option that extends throughout Easton.

And finally, the club’s newest project involves working with the Delaware Canal State Park at the Giving Pond Recreation Center to create a picnic table shelter which will allow the Easton community to better enjoy the outdoors.

Despite their multitude of projects, the club said they have remained focused on one thing in particular: improving the community.

“Our one goal is to have a positive impact,” Aronson said. “But our positive impact is not for us to say what that is, it’s for what the community wants us to be doing.”

And even the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop EWB members from working towards this goal. For the past year, the executive board of EWB has met every week to create a project leader handbook, documentation guidelines, email templates and transition documents

“It’s been more work behind-the-scenes by the executive board so that we have a functioning club to this point, so that we were ready to go with these projects” explained Aronson. “We’ve been building this foundation that Sasha had started.”

“There is no way the club would be where it is today without everybody who was involved along the way, especially this past board who worked so hard,” Neefe said. “I’m just completely blown away by the amount of support the club has got at Lafayette…and the hard work that has gone into it this time proves that hopefully it will be here to stay.”