The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Engineers Without Borders sprint for change: upcoming 5k to raise funds, awareness 

Isaac Pinkus
A dad and his son cross the finish line during the Illini Dads Weekend 5K run in the University of Illinois Arboretum on Nov. 12.

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) at the University is preparing to host their second annual 5k run on April 20 and encourages all students, faculty and community members to run in support of their global engineering efforts. 

EWB is an international organization that prides itself on aiding the development of sustainable bottom-up growth at communal, national and global levels.

The University’s chapter of EWB was started in 2003 and officially established in 2004. With roughly 100 members, the University has one of the largest EWB student chapters in the nation. Nationally, EWB has over 12,000 members working on over 450 different projects in 45 different countries. 

The different projects aim to develop a new curriculum centered around international development with the College of Engineering and the creation of a world where communities can sustainably meet their basic human needs.

Unique to the University’s chapter of EWB is their idea of contextual engineering. Ann Witmer, EWB’s former faculty advisor and lecturer in ACES and Engineering, coined this term to emphasize the importance of contextualizing and knowing the community you are working with.

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Illinois’ EWB prides itself on its ideology of understanding that one design may not work universally, and the importance of understanding the needs and desires of a specific community. 

Applying this concept of contextualized engineering, EWB is currently working on four projects, with three being actively planned and one being implemented this summer. 

The first completed project that will be implemented this coming summer is in Guatemala, where the group is working on a sanitation project to replace the bathroom system of a school currently without running water. 

By providing seven flushable toilets, one urinal, a 10-faucet handwashing station, a private station for female faculty and building water storage tanks and a biodigester septic tank with infiltration, they hope to combat these issues.

The other three active projects are still being planned while simultaneously advocating for more funding and sponsors to carry out these plans.

The Ecuador Water Distribution Project began in February 2019. Its goal is to design and install a new water distribution system to deliver clean water to 70 families in the community following the 2016 Ecuador Earthquake

The second active project is in Malawi, East Africa, which has been ongoing since its commencing relationship with the Chilaweni community in the spring of 2015. The project’s goal is to repair and design two vehicular bridges at crucial access points. 

Currently, its focus is on designing a reinforced concrete beam bridge over the local Mphati River, which it hopes to implement by this summer.

EWB does not only aid global necessities, but regional ones as well. The fourth primary project the University’s chapter of EWB is currently focused on is aiding the sanitation of Hopkins Park, a community home to roughly 600 people in Pembroke Township in Kankakee County. EWB aims to help this community by repairing the water and wastewater treatment system.

EWB’s projects are meant to help communities on both a global and local scale. However, these projects can not be attained without monetary expenses that EWB’s fundraising team works to raise through various events in the community.

In 2023, EWB raised over $30,000 through various fundraisers on both a chapter-wide and global scale. Chapter-wide, they hosted late-night bake sales, tailgates, and farmer markets. In Guatemala, they hosted a Succulent sale and Bracelet Sale; in Ecuador, they sold tote bags. 

Last semester, their largest event was their first Stride for Sustainability 5k, which raised $2,500. They hope to increase this number in their upcoming 5k on Apr 20, with a goal of raising between $3,000 and $5,000.

Nicholas Aram Karamanian, freshman in Engineering, is the organization’s main fundraising chair. His primary focus is raising money to fund these projects, and he has had a predominant focus in planning the race this semester. 

“All of the money raised is going directly towards our international engineering projects, and this money will directly impact about 25,000 people,” Karamanian said. “This is our big annual fundraiser, so we are hoping to get a lot out of this.”

Karamanian emphasized the importance of this event’s success, which will hopefully allow them to begin implementing more projects like the one planned for Malawi. 

The organization’s president, Saathveek Gowrishankar, sophomore in Engineering, has worked with the organization as the former fundraising chair and is directly involved in the Malawi project. Gowrishankar has high hopes for this year’s 5k. 

“Our sponsorship outreach, just for the 5k itself, has been so much more impressive this year,” Gowrishankar said. “We have a variety of restaurants and businesses on campus that have sponsored our race. We are also expecting a higher volume of actual runners.”

EWB encourages everyone to sign up and participate in the race and organization, regardless of their major. The registration for EWB’s 5k does not close until the morning of the race, with check-in times starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 10 a.m.

Currently, the participants in the upcoming race include many club members, friends of those involved and a variety of people from outside the school in the local Champaign-Urbana community. 

Although EWB’s 5k is an excellent source of fundraising for their projects, it is much more than the monetary value, as the club members see it as a great way to bring different people from the community together.

“There’s going to be a lot of different people from students on campus and a lot of different people just in the community,” Karamanian said. “This is our big annual fundraiser so we are hoping to get a lot out of this, but all-in-all I’m just looking forward to it being a good time — just a really big community event.”

The race is not limited solely to running. Different prize incentives will be offered for participants, such as numerous gift cards — and you do not need to be the fastest runner to win. 

The hope for the upcoming race is to raise funds and further community outreach. EWB emphasizes that you need not be a civil engineering major to join their cause, as they are looking for all branches of engineering and even those not a part of Grainger. They are seeking more help in marketing to aid the spread of their message amongst the campus community. 

EWB prides itself on its efficient onboarding process, where interested parties can attend one of their weekly meetings, let the person running them know they are new and begin the onboarding process as they see fit.

Overall, Engineers without Borders hopes to continue expanding and emphasizing the importance of their cause to all C-U community members. 

“The primary goal for the next semester is just continuing with our momentum,” Gowrishankar said. We have had a lot of great work done over the last few semesters, and even though we’re making great progress, we still have even greater goals to achieve.”

“I would like to continue our fundraising incentives and make sure we are a well-known name, not just in Champaign-Urbana but throughout the entire state and country,” Gowrishankar said. “I hope EWB UIUC can be a name to recognize.”


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Isaac Pinkus
Isaac Pinkus, Assistant Photo Editor
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