Engineers without Borders

Engineers without Borders

Three Carnegie Mellon University engineering students traveled more than 14,000 miles roundtrip to put solar panels on a grade school in northern India.

Their efforts will improve conditions for more than 300 children in grades K–5 in Rampur, who have been enduring poor lighting and a humid study environment with an inefficient diesel generator and an unpredictable power grid. Rampur is an impoverished region in one of the world's most populous nations.  

"The children, the teachers, the principal and his wife were all excited to see us," said CMU civil and environmental engineering student Michelle Krynock (E'15).

Krynock was joined by Tejank Shah, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering and materials science, who served as the project lead and has been managing the project operations since its inception.

The effort was important to Shah on multiple fronts.

"It allowed me to reconnect with my Indian roots and to give back to the country that nurtured my parents. I also appreciated the opportunity to work with great minds in both the US and in India in bringing this project to realization," Shah explained.

After their first trip in March 2011, Shah realized firsthand how much of a negative impact the diesel generator system had on student learning.

"With the installation of this solar panel system, I hope this school will serve as the hub for future green energy endeavors and as motivation for others to release themselves from their reliance on these polluting diesel generators," Shah said. "Personally witnessing how happy the school principal and students were is a memory I won't ever forget."

Krynock and Shah, members of CMU's Engineers Without Borders student chapter (EWB-CMU), were accompanied by professional mentors Uzair (Sam) Shamsi — a former resident of Rampur — and Joshua Jedlicka.

Jedlicka, an environmental engineer with CDM Smith, said the project ensures reliable use of lights, fans and computers. Shamsi, a technical manager with Michael Baker Corporation, said EWB projects benefit both the students and the professionals.

EWB student chapters acquire the determination to create a better world through engineering while developing their own career skills in engineering, and professionals gain a sense of accomplishment helping people or communities in need.

The trip was part of a five-year chapter project that began in 2010. Motivated CMU students take on various responsibilities in this multi-faceted project, such as technical design and fundraising.

Karen Yu, a master's degree student in civil and environmental engineering, secured funding through grants and sponsorships with U.S.-based companies Boeing and Caterpillar.

Sophie Grodsinksy, a junior civil and environmental engineering major, provided background advice and support as EWB-CMU president.

"It is simply amazing what these students are doing and how their work will impact both the Rampur grade school and the students," said Kurt Larsen, assistant dean for undergraduate studies at CMU's College of Engineering. "We have a service learning tradition at CMU and this project has truly made this learning experience both global and borderless."

The effort is just one example of CMU's longstanding commitment to the environment and a sustainable energy future.

CMU has 10 Silver or Gold LEED certified (green) buildings, including the nation's first green dormitory on its Pittsburgh campus.

Most recently, CMU announced it will purchase green power to offset 100 percent of the university's electric consumption for 2012.

"We practice what we preach. Carnegie Mellon is committed to sustainability in education, research and our own practices," said CMU president Jared L. Cohon.

Related Links: Engineers without Borders | College of Engineering | Environment at CMU | Energy at CMU

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