By Kevin Howell

Engineers play a vital role in making the world a better place. Not only does their work make life more practical, it can also make it more sustainable for people in need.

The engineering community has long been involved in humanitarian projects across the globe. Engineers have become so vital to humanitarian efforts, both on a volunteer and regular basis, that many universities have developed humanitarian engineering programs.

Schools such as Dartmouth, MIT, Ohio State, Penn State, Baylor University, and Arizona State have added humanitarian engineering programs over the years.

Whether you’re volunteering or choosing it as a career path, here are some benefits of working on humanitarian-related engineering projects.

Personal Development

Working on a humanitarian project stretches your abilities, tests your knowledge, and challenges you to expand your thinking.

Humanitarian projects are often the most innovative ones because they not only require engineers to develop a solution to a problem, but the solution must be affordable, useful, and sustainable in communities that lack basic resources.

Students from the University of Johannesburg’s Engineers Without Borders chapter developed such a solution in Kathrada Park, one of the poorest regions of South Africa. With no electricity, the community had become susceptible to fires from candles and kerosene lamps.

The students harnessed solar light by inserting water bottles into the roofs of homes to act as skylights and distribute light throughout the room during the day. They attached a small solar cell to the top of bottles as well as a rechargeable battery and LEDs to light homes at night.

With a $5,000 EPICs in IEEE grant, the group designed an electrical system to charge the batteries using solar energy.

Sense of Community

Engineering is about collaboration, and working on a humanitarian project is the epitome of teamwork.

Not only do you collaborate and develop solutions with colleagues, but you also become part of the community you’re serving. By providing innovations that improve lives, you will feel connected to the people you’re serving.

Students from the University of Johannesburg engaged Kathrada Park the community in the project by providing workshops and presentations and training residents to build and maintain the solar lights so the project could be sustainable.

Personal Fulfillment

It’s no secret helping others makes you feel better about yourself. By serving in a humanitarian project, you not only improve someone else’s life, but you also enhance your well-being.

Psychologist Mark Snyder of the University of Minnesota told U.S. News & World Report that “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness.”

Humanitarian projects are a great way to serve communities, improve your skills, and test your abilities. They also provide personal development, a sense of community, and fulfillment.

If you’re looking to use your skills in a humanitarian project, EPICs in IEEE can help. We provide funding for student projects that offer technical solutions to community problems. You can submit a proposal here.