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Engineers solve problems that improve the human condition. Ideally, the useful solution should be found efficiently. Efficiency is most likely achieved when engineers engage key competencies. There is no single competency that is most important except to recognize that engineers must coordinate multiple competencies for useful problem solving. This is part of the findings provided by Honor J. Passow and Christian H. Passow in their Journal of Engineering Education (JEE, Vol 106, No 3, 2017) article, What Competencies Should Undergraduate Engineering Programs Emphasize? A Systematic Review.

To find the key engineering competencies for engineering graduates, the authors searched within 8,232 education reports, 2,174 participant responses, and 36,100 job postings. The findings were mapped to ABET and Washington Accord (WA; used by non-US engineering schools) accreditation competencies (see below). The good news is, ABET and WA competencies remain relevant based on education research and job postings. What Passow and Passow identified, however, is these competencies need translation to become better understood. This translation involves (see JEE article Table 1 for full list of competencies):

Teamwork is described as coordinate efforts;

Life-long learning is described as gather information and expand skills;

Ethics is described as to take responsibility;

Design experiments is described as to measure accurately and separate from interpret data; and

Manage projects is described as devise process.

ABET has historically identified 11 competencies, described as: a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering; b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data; c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability; d) an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams; e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems; f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility; g) an ability to communicate effectively; h) the broad education necessary to understand impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context; i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning; j) a knowledge of contemporary issues; k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.



In this blog I share Imme Ebert-Uphoff’s and Yi Deng’s step-by-step cartoon guide to solve environmental problems faster. It starts with recognizing the career of an environmental engineer very much overlaps with earth science and data science, as fields of endeavor and the professionals in those fields. Like earth scientists, environmental engineers monitor and model the world to understand its components, processes, and systems. Like data scientists, environmental engineers query the data to explore relationships between components and across space and time. The American Geophysical Union in their EOS publication has provided an article with guidance on how to coordinate work between earth scientists and data scientists. Environmental engineers can benefit from this guidance, helping us not just in collaboration, but designing our activities in data collection and mining. Below I post this EOS article, “Three Steps to Successful Collaboration with Data Scientists“, by Imme Ebert-Uphoff and Yi Deng.

A step-by-step cartoon guide to efficient, effective collaboration between Earth scientists and data scientists.

By  and Yi Deng 

The vast and rapidly increasing supply of new data in the Earth sciences creates many opportunities to gain scientific insights and to answer important questions. Data analysis has always been an integral component of research and education in the Earth sciences, but mainstream Earth scientists may not yet be fully aware of many recently developed methods in computer science, statistics, and math.

The fastest way to put these new methods of data analysis to use in the Earth sciences is for Earth scientists and data scientists to collaborate. However, those collaborations can be difficult to initiate and even more difficult to maintain and to guide to successful outcomes. Here we break down the collaboration process into steps and provide some guidelines that we have found useful for efficient collaboration between Earth scientists and data scientists. We base our structure on discussions with many researchers working in similar areas and on our own experience, gained from more than 6 years of collaboration on related topics.

Knowledge Discovery from Data

The data analysis methods we are concerned with are those that seek to identify new knowledge: discovering patterns, revealing interactions between different processes, or yielding other types of insights that can be interpreted by Earth scientists and eventually attributed to some physical effect. We refer to these types of methods as knowledge discovery from data.

Some of these new methods come from the fields of deep learning (using artificial neural networks), causal discovery (using probabilistic graphical models that describe cause-and-effect relationships), and self-organizing maps. Artificial neural networks, for example, have been used to predict air quality and the occurrence of severe weather: These networks have been used to derive nonlinear transfer functions that convert observations to important geophysical parameters. Causal discovery has been used to identify information flow (the pathways between cause and effect) in the atmosphere around the globe. Self-organizing maps are becoming a preferred tool to classify recurring atmospheric flow features such as jet streams.

Meet the Scientists

How do Earth scientists and data scientists get acquainted and begin to work together? Meet Peter and Andrea, our two companions in this article (Figure 1). Peter is an Earth scientist. He studies important geoscience questions, often based on data from observations and computer model simulations. Andrea is a data scientist. She studies the newest data analysis methods developed in statistics, data mining, and machine learning. Let’s follow Peter and Andrea as they meet and move through the three major phases of their collaboration experience.

How did Peter and Andrea find each other? They might have run into each other on campus. Maybe one of them attended a talk given by the other. Or maybe a common colleague connected them. If they were actively looking for such collaboration, they might have met at an activity designed to establish new collaborations between Earth and data scientists, such as the annual Climate Informatics workshop or the Intelligent Systems for Geosciences (IS-GEO) Research Collaboration Network.

Once they met, they briefly talked one on one about the methods for data analysis that Andrea is using and about science questions that Peter is interested in. A 15-minute in-person meeting may have been all that was needed for them to discover some common interest and to set up a longer meeting to discuss potential collaboration.

Would it have been better for Andrea to just read papers from the Earth sciences to identify science questions that might be a good match and then to contact the authors for potential collaboration? It is possible that she could find a good collaborator that way. However, Andrea’s chances for success would be small, unless she already has a solid background in Earth sciences, because of the complexity of identifying problems to work on.

Flow chart of data and Earth scientist process.
Fig. 1. Peter and Andrea followed an iterative process in which they (top) defined the problem and approach, (middle) conducted experiments, and (bottom) evaluated the results and translated them back into Earth science language. Cartoon figures are from Clipart Of LLC. Click the image to see a larger version.

Research Phase 1: Defining the Research Problem and Approach

Peter and Andrea begin their research collaboration by defining a problem and choosing an approach to solving it (Figure 1, top right). This first phase is an iterative process that must take into account many different and inherently coupled aspects.

On the Earth science side, this task requires knowledge of which science questions are important and not yet fully understood and knowledge of available data sets. It also requires a deep understanding of the physical processes and interactions being investigated, the temporal and spatial scales at which these interactions take place, and most importantly, intuition of what aspect of a science question might benefit significantly from “mining” large amounts of data with innovative approaches.

On the data science side, this task requires a solid understanding of available data analysis methods and what insights can realistically be gained from them. The task also requires knowing the associated data requirements (minimal sample size and distribution assumptions) and computational effort, as well as common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

The aspects from both sides are inherently coupled: For example, to figure out which algorithm to use, our collaborators first need to understand the properties of the available data and the types of insights they want to gain. Thus, neither Peter nor Andrea can define the research problem in isolation. To define a feasible and meaningful research project, they must work closely together and have frequent conversations. They need to be open-minded and willing to learn the basic vocabulary and way of thinking of each other’s disciplines.

Research Phase 2: Conducting Experiments on the Data

In the second phase, the researchers conduct experiments on the data, such as trying different data analysis methods (Figure 1, middle right). This step sounds like a job mainly for Andrea, but if Andrea works in isolation, there is a good chance that she will take many unnecessary detours that might even cause her to get lost and give up on the project altogether. Only Peter knows what kind of preprocessing or other modifications might help to expose the signals or patterns in the data that they seek to discover.

Therefore, this step also requires constant communication between Peter and Andrea. Every time Andrea tries a new approach, Peter needs to look closely at the results and provide suggestions on how additional preprocessing of the data, focusing on a different spatial or temporal resolution, focusing on a specific geographical area, or rephrasing the scientific question may get the team closer to useful results.

Research Phase 3: Evaluation and Interpretation

Once Peter and Andrea obtain promising results, they need to evaluate them (Figure 1, bottom right). Do the results represent a real physical phenomenon, or are they merely an unforeseen by-product of the data collection or analysis method? Economist and Nobel laureate Ronald Coase once said, “if you torture the data long enough it will confess.”

Thus, before presenting the results as facts of the actual physical processes they studied, Peter and Andrea need to verify that the patterns are, indeed, properties of the underlying system, not just artifacts of the specific data set and analysis method. Ultimately, Peter needs to check whether the results are robust, make physical sense, and can be explained by known or hypothesized interactions in the considered Earth system.

What Does It All Mean?

The last tasks of phase 3 lead us to the final step of the project, namely, to fully understand what the results mean in the context of the science question they set out to address. Do Peter and Andrea’s results answer the original question they asked? What exactly did they learn?

Only if Peter and Andrea take the time to translate the research results back into the real world of physics, dynamics, chemistry, and geosciences and spell out all the implications for the considered Earth system will anyone in the Earth science community care about the results. Peter obviously plays the bigger role in this last step, but he still needs continuous feedback from Andrea to help him interpret the results correctly because only she knows about weaknesses or limitations of the method.Peter and Andrea learned that they have to work together very closely at every step of their joint project because all their decisions require a deep understanding of both Earth science and data analysis disciplines. Each of them had to be curious about the other’s discipline and also be willing to teach some basic skills or knowledge of their own discipline to the other person. Through this process, they each gained at least some very basic understanding of the nature of the other’s discipline, including its way of thinking, relevant concepts, and terminology.

Working closely together and learning about the other’s field not only made Peter and Andrea’s current collaboration run much more smoothly than it otherwise would have; it also created ideas for future projects. Through close collaboration, Peter and Andrea learned about each other’s fields even as they were contributing to them.

—Imme Ebert-Uphoff (email:, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; and Yi Deng, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Citation: Ebert-Uphoff, I., and Y. Deng (2017), Three steps to successful collaboration with data scientists, Eos, 98, Published on 30 August 2017.

ESF Grand Challenge Scholars Program scholar, Kristina Macro, explains how service learning develops a social consciousness critical to developing appropriate engineering designs.

Kristina Macro representing ESF in service learning.

As a member of the SUNY-ESF chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and Engineering for a Sustainable Society (ESS) throughout my undergraduate years at ESF, I saw firsthand the impact that service learning experiences can have both on the communities served and on engineering student volunteers. Personally, I participated in service learning projects at all stages of the engineering process, from assessing and analyzing design alternatives to implementing a final design. These projects have taken me from homes in Syracuse to the village of Las Majadas, Guatemala. Along the way, I learned how the NAE Grand Challenges of providing access to clean water and restoring and improving urban infrastructure can be achieved through a combination of sustainable designs and sustainable partnerships.

Palajunoj Valley, south of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and site of the EWB sanitation project at the Las Majadas primary school.

Working on composting latrine and water supply projects for the village of Las Majadas with the Syracuse Professionals chapter of EWB enabled me to address these grand challenges. In May 2016, I traveled to Las Majadas with the professionals to begin the implementation phase for their composting latrine project at an elementary school and to start assessing rainwater catchment as an additional water source for the village.

Kristina Macro with future leaders of Las Majadas, Guatemala.

When we arrived at the village, we were welcomed by the support of community leaders, EWB representatives, a local NGO called Primeros Pasos, a Peace Corps volunteer, and community members of all ages. After meeting together to explain our goals for the project and answer their concerns, we got to work. With our shovels and mediocre Spanish, we worked side by side with both men and women from the community who had volunteered their own time and tools to the project. EWB requires that communities provide a portion of the labor and/or finances for projects, which is critical for project success. It ensures that the community will feel responsible for the project and that designs will be implemented using local knowledge.

EWB Members in Las Majadas, Guatemala.

While we had gone through the design process, knew the materials we needed, and had the building drawings ready to go, we were still engineers and students, not experts on construction in developing countries. With the help of the community volunteers, we learned how to bend rebar properly, set up a water level appropriate for the site, and acquire the right tools for the project. We really could not have completed the project without them.

Doing service learning through EWB and ESS has taught me that the NAE grand challenges won’t be solved unless people of different backgrounds are working together and contributing their unique expertise/skills. An appropriate technology design may be innovative, but it may never come to fruition without community partnerships that will last for years after the design is implemented. Service learning was a critical part of my engineering education and my personal growth during my undergraduate years, and I plan to continue to volunteer my time to projects and programs that are committed to solving the NAE grand challenges and related issues.

ESF Grand Challenge Scholars Program scholar, Kristina Macro, explains how a global perspective helps advance engineering solutions to pressing problems affecting sustainability.

Clean water is something that we tend to take for granted in the United States, so to truly understand how to engineer solutions for the grand challenge of providing access to clean water, it is necessary to gain a global perspective. Crumbling urban infrastructure is another issue that can be seen closer to home, but this grand challenge also needs to be addressed in areas of the world that have not yet developed modern urban infrastructure. After traveling in 2015 to Costa Rica with the ESF Ecological Engineering in the Tropics, ERE 311 course, I learned how a global perspective can change the way you approach solving these problems.

Kristina Macro, 2nd from left, learning about cloud forests in Costa Rica.

The goal of the Ecological Engineering in the Tropics course is to teach how ecological engineering, designing with nature, can be used as a tool in sustainable development. We traveled around the country to see different ecosystems and to visit Rancho Mastatal, an ecological education center. There we learned about permaculture practices, sustainable designs such as solar heated showers and composting latrines, agroforestry, and issues in Costa Rica that could be addressed through ecological engineering designs.

Kristina Macro helping build an infiltration trench and settling basin as part of a stormwater management plan for Rancho Mastatal.

Many issues in Costa Rica stem from agricultural practices that create monocultures of crops such as banana and pineapples that reduce biodiversity, degrade soil quality, and introduce chemical pollutants into streams (Cornwell 2014). These issues can be addressed by using agroforestry management practices that provide habitat connectivity and recycle nutrients back into the system. At Rancho Mastatal, we learned how these practices are implemented and the challenges associated with them.

Water supply and sanitation is another major concern in Costa Rica. In addition to pollution from agricultural chemicals, streams have been polluted by untreated sewage and sediment from unprotected forests (Bower 2014). Bower states that only 3% of sewage is treated before it is released into the environment, resulting on more money being spent on the treatment of water-borne diseases than on water supply and treatment in Costa Rica. Ensuring proper wastewater treatment practices are in place is a critical step in providing sustainable access to clean water. This problem can be addressed through typical grey infrastructure and wastewater treatment plants, but ecological engineering solutions such as wastewater treatment wetland systems and composting latrines provide the opportunity to prevent pollution in a more sustainable way. In addition, in developing countries like Costa Rica, it may be more appropriate to implement wastewater treatment wetlands than build treatment facilities in some communities. Composting latrines are an even more decentralized approach that can be applied at an individual residence or community center scale.

Kristina with her student colleagues after the presentation of their ecological engineering design.

Implementing these ecological engineering solutions in developing countries helps communities develop sustainably, but can also give engineers the global perspective they need to implement these nature-based technologies in the United States. While our country may not have as many cases of water-borne illnesses, it still has polluted waters, combined sewer overflows, contaminants of emerging concern, and high energy consumption rates at wastewater treatment facilities. These issues can be solved through ecological engineering. Implementing treatment wetlands and composting latrines can help the United States address the challenges of providing access to clean water and improving urban infrastructure in a more sustainable way. The NAE grand challenges need to be approached with a global perspective because the solutions should have a positive global impact.

Cornwell, E. September 2014. Effects of different agricultural systems on soil quality in Northern Limon province, Costa Rica. Revista De Biologia Tropical, 62(3), 887-897
Bower, K. M. January 2014, Water supply and sanitation in Costa Rica. Environmental Earth Sciences, 71(1), 107-123

ESF Grand Challenge Scholars Program scholar, Kristina Macro, presents the Gateway to Rethinking Organic Waste (GROW) business plan. Kristina’s GROW design team included Grace Belisle, Mark Tepper, Denali Trimble, and Julia Woznicki.

Many people in the world do not see food waste as a valuable resource. Even those that want to keep food waste from landfills do not compost their food waste because they find the process inconvenient, time consuming, and/or unpleasant. GROW, the Gateway to Rethinking Organic Waste, is a personal compost container that exceeds the capabilities of those on the market by widening the scope of usage and functionality. The GROW kit, shaped as a hexagon, takes food waste and creates a raised garden bed. The kit includes compost starter and seeds.

Learn more about GROW with this business plan and engaging video!

ESF Grand Challenge Scholars Program scholar, Kristina Macro, explains how sustainable engineering design requires a systems perspective, where fields such as economics, ecology, and sociology inform engineering.

The drinkable book, which is a novel concept for providing potable water.

To address the grand challenge of providing access to clean water, it is critical to understand the economic, environmental, and social impacts that a new technology or system will have both in the short and long term. An exciting new technology that addresses this challenge is the Drinkable Book. This product uses silver nanoparticles embedded in filter paper to kill bacteria and make water safe to drink in areas that do not have access to potable water.

Each page of the drinkable book is a filter to clean many pollutants from water.

The filter paper was developed by Dr. Theresa Dankovich, and with the help of a design team, it was made into a book that also includes educational information about water-borne diseases and how to keep water clean. To use the book, one simply tears out a page, slides it into the slot on the filter box that comes with it, and pours water through it. The amount of time it takes for the water to filter through depends on the turbidity of the water (Nodjimbadem 2015). Each filter can clean about 26 gallons of water, so the entire 25-page book would last four years for one person.

When water is poured through the paper, 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria such as cholera, E. coli, and typhoid are killed (Berkowitz 2015). The bacteria are inactivated by silver ions during the percolation process, so they are not just removed by filtration. The silver loss from the filter paper is minimal, with levels under 0.1 ppm, the US EPA limit for silver in drinking water (Dankovich & Gray 2011). These results show that the silver embedded filter paper could be an effective appropriate technology for emergency water treatment. The book meets the objectives for emergency treatment systems to be cost effective, highly portable, nontoxic, easy to use and distribute, and have a low energy input.

Field testing of the drinkable book filter paper.

Field testing of the filter paper has been done in South Africa, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, and Bangladesh in partnership with the organizations WATERisLIFE and iDE-Bangladesh (Levine 2016). These studies have shown that the paper works as a filter for water in many different regions of the world, with one case showing that the paper was able to reduce bacteria levels in dilute raw sewage to levels comparable to U.S. tap water. The field testing team worked with community members to address their concerns and opinions about the design. This will help them ensure that the final design is accepted by the communities. As a result of working with the communities, they are working on a simple design for filter paper holders that will be easy for community members to use.

This technology has been seen as a solution that could help reduce the number of cases of water-borne diseases and increase access to potable water all over the world. However, it is important to understand what economic, environmental, and social impacts the Drinkable Book may have before it is implemented at a large scale.

From an economic perspective, the Drinkable Book’s low cost makes widespread distribution feasible. However, the nature of the book’s production and materials creates a dependency of the communities served on the pAge Drinking Paper organization created by Dankovich and other non-profits. The books would most likely be given to communities as donations, which although helpful in short term and emergency situations, could become detrimental to the communities in the future (Prough 2015). Considering a moral obligation to help people in need and the risk of perpetuating the cycle of dependency on wealthier countries is an ethical dilemma that needs to be explored for any engineering project that affects communities in developing countries.

The filter paper in the Drinkable Book may have negative environmental impacts. The silver nanoparticles in the filter paper could pose a threat to ecosystems if they are released into the environment (Prough 2015). Even though levels of silver loss were minimal in lab experiments, the amount of loss may change over time as the paper is used more and breaks down. The filter paper is designed to be thrown away once it is no longer effective, so there could be issues with the proper disposal of the filter papers. The book could be more sustainable than other energy intensive treatment processes, but a life cycle analysis of the book and its filter papers would need to be done to fully assess its environmental impact.

Providing clean water for communities that did not have access to potable water previously would most likely have positive social impacts. Less people will suffer and die from water-borne diseases, and community members wouldn’t have to worry about getting sick from drinking water. However, as previously mentioned, a sense of dependency may have a negative social impact.

Although there are many concerns regarding its economic, environmental, and social impacts, the Drinkable Book has the potential to provide access to clean water for people all over the world. These concerns must be addressed in future studies while applying a systems perspective to the design process. Approaching the design from a systems perspective will make it possible to solve the grand challenge of providing access to clean water in a sustainable way that will have a positive impact on the communities it serves.

Berkowitz, K. (2015). Living by the book: chemist Theresa Dankovich’s filters could save millions of lives. Human Ecology, (1), 41.
Dankovich, T. A., & Gray, D. G. (2011). Bactericidal paper impregnated with silver nanoparticles for point-of-use water treatment. Environmental Science & Technology, 45(5), 1992-1998. doi:10.1021/es103302t
Levine, J. 2016. pAge Papers: Pilot scale tests of Drinkable Book. Indiegogo. Retrieved from:
Nodjimbadem, K. August 16, 2015. Could This ‘Drinkable Book’ Provide Clean Water to the Developing World?. Retrieved from:

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Research conducted with Dr. Aldo R. Pinon-Villarreal and Dr. A. Salim Bawazir as part of the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates, convened at New Mexico State. This NSF REU supported the Re-Inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure program. The research was titled, “Stem water potential in desert willow grown in clinoptilolite zeolite and in-situ riparian soil”. The abstract follows:

Reestablishing native vegetation in riparian areas of southwestern United States is difficult because of the reduction of natural floods by channelization practices, timing of rainfall, and competition against saltcedar. A previous study demonstrated that clinoptilolite zeolite (CZ) could be used as a wicking material to raise sufficient moisture from shallow groundwater (< 3 m deep) to sustain plant establishment and growth. However, no studies have explored the effects that CZ has on water stress in established vegetation. This study evaluated the stem water potential (ψstem) of desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) grown in CZ cores or unamended in-situ riparian soil (RS) as part of a riparian zone rehabilitation study in Sunland Park, New Mexico. Root zone volumetric moisture content (θv), plant ψstem, and leaf chlorophyll content (LCC) for three to four randomly selected specimens in each substrate treatment within different DGW zones were undertaken from June 7 to July 7, 2016. Results from the study showed that the CZ treatment in Zone 2 under a deeper DGW of 2 m had significantly lower ψstem than the RS treatment (p = 0.002 – 0.06). However no differences in treatment ψstem averages were found in Zone 1 under a shallower DGW of 1.4 m (p = 0.90 – 0.95). Root zone θv was negatively correlated with ψstem, but this relationship was weaker for CZ treatments. Most treatment θv and LCC averages decreased while ψstem increased over the course of the study. This was related to low precipitation and the consistent increase in mean temperatures, with daily maxima reaching as high as 41°C and during the study period. These results can be used to determine the appropriate groundwater conditions where CZ could be used in future urban riparian restoration projects.

Kristina’s full study can be accessed online.


Figure 1. Map of the Sunland Park Test Bed riparian rehabilitation area showing planting zones for five native plant species and groundwater piezometers.

Figure 2. Map of desert willows grown in riparian soil (RS) and clinoptilolite zeolite (CZ) cores at the Sunland Park Test Bed

Figure 5. Stem water potential vs. volumetric moisture content for both depth to groundwater zones

Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 Matthew Montanaro discusses solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6.

The article “Humanitarian drones to deliver medical supplies to roadless areas” released by the Guardian on March 30, 2014 explains the idea of using drones to carry up to 2 kg of life saving packages to areas that are unreachable by road. This would be especially useful in places like sub-Saharan Africa were 85% of roads are not usable during the wet season. The people living in this area are cut off from the ability to get medical supplies during this season. The facts in this article seem correct but there aren’t really much of them. They can improve the facts by just including more information about the areas this would be used in. A very small amount of information is given and this can be misleading. The project is estimated to cost 6,000 pound for each UAV and 3,000 pound for each ground system. Right now I feel that the cost for the system is too high for it’s gains. Each drone would only be able to fly 10 miles at a time so in order to cover a lot of ground a lot of drones and ground stations would have to be created. Infrastructure may not even be in place to charge these drones in the villages that need them. In the future this kind of technology could be valuable for the communities but right now there are better uses of money to help undeveloped communities rather than getting drones. The required labor wouldn’t be difficult for communities because once the system is in place there isn’t much that would have to be done to maintain it. The most important thing would be tp see if communities have the utilities available to power the drones and if this is worth the use of the power. For undeveloped communities this technology would not be culturally appropriate. People would probably not adapt to using the system very quickly and it doesn’t really make sense to have a drone when improved bathrooms and water supplies are still needed. The design of the project requires a ground station every 10 miles and would ultimately have villages sending and trading supplies between themselves. I think that the design would be more realistic if the drones could carry a heavier payload and fly longer distances but in life and death situations this system could definitely save lives because of the accuracy and quickness of delivering medicine.

This system would be able to help combat diseases, child mortality and maternal health due to the swift delivery of medicines and vital supplies. There are many of areas in developing and undeveloped countries where during the rainy season roads are inaccessible. Just because the roads can’t be traveled doesn’t mean that diseases and sicknesses will take a break. A system like this could ensure that people in all areas can get the treatment that they need for any kind of illness or disease. This article shows how much of a burden caring for a relative with AIDS is for that persons relatives It hurts the family economically, physically and emotionally. With the use of the proposed system, correct medicine would be able to be provided for diseases like AID’s without family members having to travel to go get it.

A more simple solution that could work instead of this complicated system could be a more developed distribution of medicine during the dry season. Communities could be  given stocks of medicine for diseases and sicknesses prevalent in the area so when someone does fall ill they will already have the supplies to fight it. With the prices being spent on the drones and the ground stations a lot more medicine could be purchased and kept in the communities. This would overall cost less because although they are buying more medicine they do not have to pay for the medicine on top of paying for the drones. This would cause more planning and spending in the dry season to make sure they are prepared for the wet season and somebody in the village must travel to whichever closest place has the medicine available. This would definitely fit the cultures of developing communities much better. The most important part of this design would be to have effective planning before the wet season.



Inventor (left) with a sample drone (right)

Inventor (left) with a sample drone (right)

Gilson, Lucy, and Anne Mills. “Health Sector Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons of the Last 10       Years.” Health Policy 32.1-3 (1995): 215-43. Web.

Goodman, Catherine, et al. “Medicine Sellers and Malaria Treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa: What Do They Do and How Can Their Practice Be Improved?” The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 32.6 (2007): 203-18. Web.

Hickey, Shane. “Humanitarian Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies to Roadless Areas.” The Guardian.    Guardian News and Media, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.



Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Kellie Floyd discusses solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goals 3, 6, and 7:

The article “Effectiveness of Improved Cookstoves to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Developing Countries. The Case of the Cassamance Natural Subregion, Western Africa”, written by six authors from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering of the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), in October 2013, was published in the Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection and online on SciRes in January 2014. The article presents the case study completed by UPM on a sample of households that received improved cookstoves in 2012-2013, to see what effect the improvement has had on indoor air quality. The cookstoves were installed by Alianza por la Solidaridad, a Spanish NGO, in 3000 households in the Cassamance Natural Subregion—part of Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. The study consisted of measuring carbon monoxide (CO) and fine particle matter (PM2.5) concentrations, before and after the installations.  The cookstoves were Noflaye Jeeg and Noflaye Jaboot types; they are locally produced, but basically versions of the Rocket Stove (Figure 1 below). Both of these were installed in each household. They do not have chimneys. The main goals of the installations were to reduce fuelwood consumption, the required collection time, and indoor air pollution (Borge et al. 2013).

The study to determine how effective these installations were consisted of three main parts—monitoring before and after pollutant concentrations, household questionnaires (both of women and head of household), and collecting physical information such as kitchen shape, size, amount of windows/doors, etc. This information was combined to evaluate the improved stoves. Four graphs, shown below, depict the results of the study (Borge et al. 2013).

From these graphs, it is easy to see that after the improvements, there was a lowering of both CO and PM2.5 concentrations; however, some areas show a much better improvement than others. This variation by location is explained in the study as being caused by differences in ventilation and household size (affecting consumption). In some areas, such as Guinea-Bissau, the results were not clear enough to really be able to say that the installations improved indoor air quality, since the before and after levels are so close. The 24-hr mean CO concentrations were still higher than the WHO guidelines in Senegal and Gambia after installing the stoves, and the 24-hour mean for PM2.5 concentrations were higher than guidelines as well, in all areas. Although there were significant reductions in some areas, the variability by location and the fact that the improvements were not enough to make it under the guidelines suggests that these stoves are not adequate (Borge et al. 2013).

This report uses data from the World Health Organization and International Energy Agency, was completed by appropriate, qualified people, and completely depicts and explains both the methods used and results. I would say, therefore, that the report is very accurate and trustworthy. The report itself evaluates the level of improvement and concludes that although there was improvement seen, it was not enough to reach guidelines and be effective in addressing the MDGs. The variability among locations clearly influenced the results, and perhaps suggests that a solution that was more specific for each case would have been more appropriate, rather than this “one-size-fits-all” type of solution for the entire region. The areas where not as much improvement was seen probably could have benefitted more from a different option.  As far as design, maintenance, required labor, and cost, the NGO installed and funded these stoves, and they are very simple in design and would not require much maintenance. So in that regard, the stoves were very appropriate. I would say that maybe the NGO went too far in trying to keep the solution appropriate, so that not as much of an improvement was actually seen.

The International Energy Agency reports that 40% of the global population relies on the traditional use of biomass for cooking—simple, inefficient technology such as the three-stone fire (IEA, 2010). Inefficient conditions result in pollution, including: carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and organic compounds. Indoor air pollution is a major cause of negative health effects, being the second leading cause of death in developing countries. It is predicted that it will become the first leading cause by 2030 (IEA, 2010).  The World Health Organization has conducted many studies and linked the exposure to indoor air pollution and health effects; pneumonia, infection of the lower respiratory track, burns, eye diseases, and other lung-related diseases are some of the potential health effects. In many households in developing regions such as this region, pollutant levels can be 10-50 times higher than the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2006). From this class, we have learned the importance of improving indoor air quality to improve health, efficient resource use, and decrease pollution. Improvements to indoor air quality can address the MDGs of promoting gender equality and empowering women (3), combat diseases (6), and ensure environmental sustainability (7). Women are usually the ones to cook in developing regions, and thus they are more exposed to the pollution and more likely to have the negative health effects. Improvements not only can improve their health, but also reduce the time and energy they must spend cooking, and thus give them opportunity to do something else to generate income or improve their lives (Fry et al.  2009). The improved stoves used in this case work to address these goals, and since at least some improvements were seen in pollution levels, we can generally say that the stoves installation contributed to reducing the negative health effects associated with indoor air pollution. The study did not evaluate, or at least did not report on, whether any improvements in terms of gender empowerment were seen.

We have discussed alternative stove improvements, such as the Loretta stove and Loretta-Rocket combination. The article specifically mentions that chimneys were not included, and this assisted in causing variation in results by location, because some households naturally had better ventilation than others. Thus, in order to not waste money and keep the improvements already made for all of these households, chimneys could simply be added. This would help unify the results and decrease pollution levels further, hopefully enough to make it below WHO guidelines.

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Work Cited

1. Sota, Candela De La, Julio Lumbreras, Javier Mazorra, Adolfo Narros, Luz Fernandez, and Rafael Borge. “Effectiveness of Improved Cookstoves to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Developing Countries. The Case of the Cassamance Natural Subregion, Western Africa.” Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection 5th ser. 2.1 (2014): n. pag. SciRes. Web. 27 Apr. 214. <;.


The ERE department thanks our alumni for their participation in the ERE 2017 alumni survey, used for a broad departmental self-study with the goal of continual improvement, which also informs our stakeholders including our ABET reviewers. With respect to ABET review, the ERE alumni survey is part of a set of activities that assess student performance and determine if the performance is below a defined threshold, which generates a trigger and initiates an action in response to the assessment.

The ERE program is committed to excellence in order to prepare students to have a maximum in improving the world. Here are ERE students at the Engineers without Borders fall 2017 picnic.

The ERE 2017 alumni survey data was completed in spring 2017, and it did result in an assessment trigger based on responses from the alumni who graduated as part of the 2010 to 2016 cohort. The performance metric for the alumni survey is a cohort score below 4.0, on a Likert scale explained below, when asked to rank their level of agreement with the statement about learning outcomes. The statement is, “After completing my degree with the ERE department I was able to …” followed by each of the 11, (a) to (k) learning outcomes; e.g., a) After completing my degree with the ERE department I was able to apply knowledge of math/science/engineering. Respondents could select from a Likert scale, which extends from 1 for Strongly Disagree to 5 for Strongly Agree. Cohorts based on graduation year were created to analyze the responses. The entire sample of ERE alumni survey responses contains 198 alumni who earned a B.S. (the ESF Alumni Office provided ERE with records for 1035 alumni, of whom 584 had valid email addresses). The graduation cohorts were: 64 graduated 1950 – 1989, 30 graduated 1990 – 1999, 35 graduated 2000 – 2009, and 69 graduated from 2010 – 2016. In the 2010 to 2016 cohort, 66 had graduated from the B.S. in ERE program, and 3 had graduated from the B.S. in forest engineering (FEG) program. Prior to 2010, all students had graduated from the B.S. in FEG program. All responses within each cohort were averaged for a cohort group score for each question, and there was one cohort group that scored one outcome below 4.0. The 2010 – 2016 cohort had a group score of 3.9 for the learning outcome (c), after completing their degree they were able to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs.

The action taken in response to the ERE 2017 alumni survey was to place the trigger in context, as well as analyze the trigger response with respect to other data, and identify the next set of strategic actions. To place the trigger in context, the 2010 to 2016 cohort score of 3.9 for outcome (c), which involves design, is 0.1 points below the trigger threshold of 4. This is the smallest possible trigger, and may not justify changes in our program related to design. By comparison, the 3 graduation cohorts from 1950 to 2009 assigned scores of 4.2, 4.2, and 4.4 to learning outcome (c), with the 2000 to 2009 cohort having the highest score of 4.4. If you average the responses for outcome (c) of the 2 cohorts from 2000 to 2016, the cohort average score is approximately 4.2, which is above the 4.0 trigger and comparable with the 1950 to 1999 cohort average. This cohort averaging analysis suggests no further action on changes to design in the ERE curriculum is needed. Additional actions will be taken, however, given the alumni survey dataset is relatively rare, gathered approximately every 5 yrs, and can serve as a valuable trend indicator for each cohort. ERE is taking additional actions, which involve the ERE chair working with the ERE instructional support specialist who administered the survey to further examine alumni survey data and cross-compare with exit survey data. The action of examining alumni survey data will determine if, and by how much, the 2010 to 2016 cohort relative other cohorts have lower scores on the 10 other learning outcomes. This review may help us understand if in general learning outcomes were impacted during this 2010 to 2016 period, which corresponds to a time when the ERE department experienced an increase in student enrollment and a decrease in faculty, which could impact learning outcomes. The action of examining graduating senior exit survey data will allow us to corroborate cohort responses at graduation with those after graduation, and identify if alumni tend to hold different impressions of their achievement.

ERE also benefited from non-learning outcome data from the ERE 2017 alumni survey, which provide qualitative and quantitative information on professional activities and growth and help in the ERE self-study. Approximately half the alumni respondents are in New York State, with the other half representing 27 different states and 2 other countries. Approximately 66% of respondents are currently working in an engineering field, 21% are employed outside engineering, and 10% are retired. Of the 5 respondents (2.5%) who identified as unemployed, only one was currently seeking employment, which is a common labor market phenomenon due to transitions in life. Alumni respondents are professionally engaged, with 51% engineers-in-training and 41% registered Professor Engineers. Approximately 67% of alumni reported spending >10 hours per year in continuing education, with more than 50% spending 10–40 hours/year. Professional growth was interpreted from responses documenting half of the respondents are in supervisory roles: 27% supervising 1–5 staff, 12 % supervising 6–20 staff, and 12% supervising >20 staff.  The distribution of alumni by most recent employment sector is: 51% private or consulting, 19% state or federal agency, 11% regional or municipal government, 2% non-profit, 2% self-employed, 8% academic, 1% military, 6% other. Alumni survey responses to questions about employment documented the ERE alumni professional commitment and development. The distribution of alumni by most recent focus area is: 24% civil engineering, 27% environmental engineering, 15% water resources engineering, 3% geospatial engineering, 4% construction engineering, 15% not engineering, and the remainder in other categories. In summary, the ERE 2017 alumni survey documents a successful ERE program with talented, well-educated, and engaged ERE alumni.

We look forward to remaining in contact with our ERE alumni!