Engineers Without Borders travel to Ghana to begin construction on new school

In early January 2019, seven members of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Engineers Without Borders chapter traveled to the community of Chinderi in Ghana for three weeks. Chinderi is about six to seven hours from Accra, the capital of Ghana. Their goal was to begin the construction of a new junior high school.

The students who attended the trip were Zeb Kielar (civil engineering), Justin Prochaska (sustainability and renewable energy systems), Matt Buffo (electrical engineering), Taylor Martin (environmental engineering), Brendan Carr (mechanical engineering), Skylar Lopez-Kohler (mechanical engineering), and Karisa Rusch (civil engineering).

Engineers Without Borders is a national nonprofit organization that strives to assist communities sustainably reach their basic human needs. The UW-Platteville chapter, founded in 2007, is a student group that partners with several communities in Ghana, and their mission is to improve the quality of life for the residents of the communities through specific engineering solutions. Their vision is that members gain an enriched global perspective through the innovative professional educational opportunities that the Engineers Without Borders-USA program provides.

“The mission of our chapter is to unite with communities. We want to be able to help them help themselves. We are a partner with the communities for life, so if something needs repairing or updating, we follow up with them,” senior electrical engineering major and president of the UW-Platteville chapter of Engineers Without Borders Matt Buffo said.

The current junior high school in Chinderi has a thatched roof structure with half walls and dirt floors. This creates problems because class has to be cancelled every time it rains due to flooding. The rain also causes the roof to become saturated, and this leads to major health and safety concerns for the students and teachers. These are, unfortunately, regular occurrences during Ghana’s rainy seasons, which can be anywhere from March through mid-November.

The new junior high school was created by a UW-Platteville senior design team, which consisted of three senior members of Engineers Without Borders. The new facility will be equipped with proper concrete and brick with an adequate roof to keep the rain out. The installation of this new building should help to lessen the amount of class cancellations caused by weather, and it should allow for a larger number of students to continue their education past primary school.

The construction is expected to take three to four phases, and phase one was completed during the recent trip. For the first phase, the group focused on completing the footing and foundation. Phase two will consist of putting up the walls, and phase three will be assembling the roof. The project is expected to be completed in January 2020.

Since its establishment in 2007, UW-Platteville’s Engineers Without Borders chapter has completed four projects in Ghana: Nsumia Culvert (August 2008), Papase School (August 2008), Gidi Footbridge (August 2009) and NAVA Primary School (August 2012). They work in the same geographical area and focus on projects dealing mainly with infrastructure. One of their goals is to create a stronger, thriving community with the ability to sustain in the far future.

The group is open to students of all majors, and no prior construction or engineering experience is needed. For more information on how to get involved with Engineers Without Borders contact the chapter at View a video produced by the UW-Platteville chapter of Engineers without Borders, highlighting the recent trip to Ghana.