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April 25, 2002 Engineers Without Borders opens chapter at Concordia



Engineers Without Borders - Concordia chapter

Engineering from a humanitarian perspective: Patrice Desdunes, Mark Vukadin Seidah and Hany Sarhan, founders of Concordia’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Photo by Marc Bourcier

by Austin Webb

Despite a heavy exam schedule, about 60 people turned out for the first meeting of Concordia’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

The meeting, held April 17 in the DeSève Cinema, gave students in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science a chance to find out about the new campus organization and hear brief talks from two industry speakers: Hany Moustapha, Manager of Technical Programs at Pratt & Whitney Canada, and Robert Collins, a demining expert who also works at STMicroelectrics, a global semiconductor manufacturer.

“The evening was a big success, especially considering how busy everyone is with exams right now,” said Hany Sarhan, co-founder and president of Concordia’s new EWB chapter. “I thought the best part of the night was the question-and-answer session [after Collins spoke about removing landmines],” continued Sarhan, a third-year student who also spoke briefly at the event. “People were very interested, and they were really pushing to get a spot in next year’s EWB.”

Engineers Without Borders is an organization made up of engineers and students who aim to help bridge the growing technological gap between developed and Third World countries. Current endeavours include the Light Up the World project, which is helping to construct and install low-energy lighting and generators in India. EWB is also involved in water purification and safety projects in Chile to rid the water supply of high levels of arsenic.

The new Concordia chapter of EWB is only the second in Quebec, the other being at McGill. Sarhan, who co-founded the new chapter with third-year students Mark Vukadin Seidah and Patrice Desdunes, got the ball rolling partly over a sense of rivalry and partly because of popular demand at Concordia.

“What set it off was reading an article about the McGill chapter. The more I talked about setting something up at Concordia, the more I found that others in the department were feeling the same way.”

Desdunes, a third-year civil engineering student, agreed. “Engineers are sometimes faceless people,” he said. “But with this, we’ll get to help people and to meet them. We’ll be involved in something bigger. You could tell by the number of questions [after Collin’s demining talk] that there’s a lot of interest here.”

Sarhan is also happy about raising a social conscience in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science. “It will be amazing to use what we’re learning for some real benefit across the world. We’re all looking for jobs when we graduate, but having Engineers Without Borders at Concordia gives a humanitarian perspective that you aren’t going to get at any company,” Sarhan said.

The Concordia chapter of Engineers Without Borders begins its first full year of operation this September.