The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Student Chapter spent nearly two weeks in West Africa to examine the land in Adumasa, Ghana, with the goal of building a new school this summer. Six engineering students, Tara Abramson, Emma Ball, Cade Femrite, Bailee Mergen, Noah Miller and David Ranft, and faculty members Dr. Samuel Owusu-Ababio and Dr. Austin Polebitski traveled to Ghana in January to embark on the project. The students described their experience as once in a lifetime.
“I’ve been a member of Engineers Without Borders my whole time being at UW-Platteville,” said Miller, a junior civil engineering major from New Berlin, Wisconsin. “I wanted to be a part of the school project that we are building.”
“I wanted to participate in something out of my comfort zone and into something bigger than myself,” added Abramson, a senior civil engineering major from Union Grove, Wisconsin. “I wanted to see a lot more of the world and gain those experiences.”
The group flew into Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and journeyed to Adumasa for the first part of their trip, where they collected survey data and GPS data.
“We were trying to figure out what the land currently looks like, so we can put it in software and a senior design team can get to work and design it,” said Miller. “The second half of the trip, we visited a school project we had previously worked on as a chapter. We looked at the building, met with committee leaders and officially handed the school over to the community and community leaders.”
As the students learned more about the Adumasa community, Ranft explained how the middle school that will be designed by UW-Platteville students will be run by the organization, the Holy Trinity Sisters.
“In the U.S., we can reasonably expect that the government is going to provide us with an education, take care of us as children and ensure we have an education and a safe place to go. I understand it’s not the case everywhere. It was different to know that intellectually, but then to experience it hands-on, I wasn’t prepared,” said Ranft, a senior civil engineering major from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “I had two big takeaways, one that the government wouldn’t be in a position to necessarily provide a quality education and then there would be an outside Catholic organization that was in a position to provide an exceptional level of education given the meager resources that they have.”
Mergen, a junior civil engineering major from Muscatine, Iowa, added, “The school is being used for students of all faiths. We were very happy to see that they are not turning anyone away.”
The students acknowledged the importance of having the opportunity to be exposed to these educational opportunities.
“It’s eye-opening in general to travel, especially doing what we were doing, applying our engineering knowledge into surveying and GPS data and trying to figure out what we wanted to do in Adumasa,” said Miller. “It’s important to get outside of your comfort zone, use your education and give back to people.”
Ball called it rewarding to combine all the knowledge that she’s learned so far in her collegiate career to assist with the school project.
“You’re using your education that you received in a real-life experience,” said Ball, a senior environmental engineering major from Elburn, Illinois. “You’re traveling with your classmates and professors; you’re learning about experiences and people who you haven’t gotten to know in class. I definitely learned about my classmates and professors we went with. It was huge – it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
According to the students, the design of the school is underway. The goal is to start construction in August. To get the process underway, the EWB chapter is discussing fundraising ideas.
“We are in the beginning stages of raising funds to be able to build the school. Essentially, whatever funds are required to build the school in the various stages are going to be raised and organized by EWB-Platteville,” said Ranft. “Hopefully, we can ignite some good faith and good will from contributors.”
To learn more about Engineers Without Borders, visit, uwplatt.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/engineerswithoutborders.