When You Help Less, It’s Hopeless
There are certainly many engineering challenges that face the world with the population rising above 7 billion individuals worldwide.
- How do we feed 7 billion people?
- How do we dispose of waste from 7 billion people?
- How do we save the environment from the carbon footprints of 7 billion people?
- How do we transport 7 billion people?
Our population has already exceeded 7 billion people. How will engineers shape the course of development to sustain growth? http://flic.kr/p/8SnbbL
Engineers must be willing to tackle these problems head on or else we will be left to the bickering of global politicians. We want solid solutions, not waving words.
What Can I Do?
Engineering Internship and Volunteer Opportunities
As high school and college students make summer plans, they may be wondering, “What can I do this summer to change the world? To really make a difference?” Students and adults alike should take a look into these four organizations that provide summer opportunities for engineers.
Engineering World Health Summer Institute
- Live in a developing country with a host family
- Duration: 2 months over summer
- One month of training, one month of service
- Focus: Install and repair medical equipment
-Undergraduate and graduate college students
-Postgraduates or new professional engineers
Engineering for Africa
- Freedom to choose when to travel and which projects best suited to your skills.
- Project examples: waste management, timber footbridge, construction of learning centers
- Cost: variable depending on duration; required to fundraise on own
- Duration: 1 month to 1 year
- Target: Students looking to take a gap year. Student or professional engineers.
- Volunteer and internship opportunities
- Seeks to immerse individuals in international cultural experiences
- Cost: ~$2,500 per month
- Target: All 18 and older are eligible to apply. Non-engineering opportunities also available.
Engineers Without Borders
- Become a member with a local EWB chapter, then work on specific global projects to your chapter
- Travel abroad with your EWB chapter
- Locations: Worldwide, dependent on individual chapter
- See Johns Hopkins EWB for more insight
These opportunities are just the tip of the iceberg for engineers to intern or volunteer abroad! http://flic.kr/p/9TRZv
This is just the tip of the iceberg covering the opportunities available for engineers looking for intern or volunteer abroad this summer.
What other awesome engineering summer internships do you know about?
“You won’t find a solution by saying that there’s no problem.” –William Rotsler
Real Problems, Real People, Real Solutions
Design Team 12 at Biomedical Engineering Design Day. Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins University.
Hands down, the best academic experience that Johns Hopkins University engineering offers is the biomedical engineering design team program. Twelve design teams are filled with undergraduate students from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed incoming freshmen to wiser and more experienced graduating seniors. Each team is confronted with a real world problem (no, they haven’t been solved yet), and they have to do what engineers do: find a solution. The topics range from global health to domestic issues including:
- prosthetic limb development
- vaccine transport in developing countries
- subcutaneous injection of monoclonal antibodies
- shock delivery in cardioversion and defibrillation
What’s the Problem?
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work on Design Team 12 eight brilliant young men to innovate a device for automated early glaucoma screening in Indian eye camps. Let me set the scene for our project:
- The Setting: With a population of over 1.22 billion people and only one ophthalmologist per 100,000 people, citizens cannot be expected to travel hundreds of miles to receive eye-care.
- Protagonists: Eye camps consist of a group of ophthalmologists and eye-care workers who travel around the country to deliver eye-care to villages at a time.
- The Conflict
- Medical: Glaucoma is a disease of the eye caused by the buildup of pressure which damages the optic nerve.
- Scale: Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in the world and is affected to affect over 80 million individuals by 2020.
- Clinical: Eye camps either screen for glaucoma using an ineffective method (tonometry) or do not screen for glaucoma at all.
- Need: Create a highly sensitive and specific device that will either replace existing devices or introduce a new method that does not add more work for the one or two traveling physicians. Make it inexpensive. Shrink examination time. Don’t use pupil-dilating drugs. GO.
The Climax: OcuRex
OcuRex on display at JHU Design Day. Courtesy of Johns Hopkins University.
Our device, OcuRex, takes multiple color images of the back of the eye and then stitches them together using an image stitching software. The color image can then be run through an algorithm that will output a metric that tells the likelihood of an individual having glaucoma. We were able to obtain a provisional patent for our device and our team went on to win the Best Group Process Award.
Throughout this process, I learned a lot:
- Brainstorming is about saying the crazy ideas
- How to use CAD
- Identifying the problem is sometimes harder than finding the solution
- How to embarrass yourself at an elevator pitch competition
- Failing is okay, as long as you persevere
- How to write a business plan
Engineering is about defining a problem and finding a solution to make the world a better place. I’m thankful that I got to experience this firsthand through Design Team 12.