Engineers for Developing Countries
2014 Heiskell Award Winner: Study Abroad
Nomination submitted by: Uttiyo Raychaudhuri, Director of Study Abroad
The Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC) Haiti Initiative is an innovative student-directed program that began as an applied engineering program, but now also integrates civic engagement and extends across disciplines to improve the quality of life and work towards a sustainable future for the village of Cange in Haiti’s Central Plateau. CEDC projects have directly impacted over 10,000 Haitians.
The CEDC Haiti Initiative works with Zanmi Lasante, a local nongovernmental healthcare provider, to develop solutions through interdisciplinary student-led initiatives in partnership with Clemson University, non-profit organizations, and industry. The program created its first service-learning experience in the fall of 2009 with seven civil engineering students, who focused on the design for a municipal water filtration and distribution system in Haiti’s Central Plateau, serving a population of 3,500. The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina provided initial funding for the project, and the students raised personal funds to travel, collect data, and initiate the design process.
A few months later, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince. The devastation resulted in thousands of Haitians relocating to the Central Plateau. The surge in population, coupled with a subsequent outbreak of cholera, placed increased pressure on the student team to complete the water filtration system. Faced with growing health and environmental issues, CEDC branched out to form its first interdisciplinary collaboration with the School of Public Health and the Bio-systems Engineering Department at Clemson University.
In the poignant words of a student, Harrison DeMint: “Walking a mile in Haitian shoes is a good summary of my trip. Walking up the steps from Ba Cange made a huge impact on me. I tried to imagine not being able to go to school because I needed to walk those steps with a heavy load of water. It changed my perspective of what is difficult and what is important. Everywhere you saw people doing what they had to do to get by, which was really inspiring.”
Originally a STEM-focused engineering program, CEDC now involves approximately 100 students per semester (freshman through graduate levels) from 30 different majors, working on 15 separate projects in engineering, economic development, and education, all focused on a sustainable future for Cange. Engineering, an underrepresented group in study abroad, remains at the program’s core: students from the College of Engineering and Science comprise nearly two-thirds of its enrollment.
The students in CEDC stand to gain much more than hands-on experience in their profession: they witness poverty, sickness, and an unwavering sense of community that few had ever imagined before taking part in the program.