Engineers for a Sustainable World, a club tackling problem-solving projects

Reprinted with slight edits from the student-produced Weather Vane, Oct. 2, 2014. Written by first-year student Harrison Horst.

Engineers for a Sustainable World, referred to by its members as ESW, is only a year old, and though it has already achieved significant results, still has not been heard of by the majority of the EMU population.

ESW is a national organization with chapters at approximately 40 universities across the country, with the only Virginia chapter located here at EMU.

Esther Tian, assistant professor of engineering, started the organization her first year here in hopes of stimulating sustainable projects on campus.

“I thought [ESW] was a really good fit with the mission of the university,” said Tian, who is excited with the inaugural successes of ESW.

Last winter, the club drew up plans for its first project ever: a new greenhouse for EMU’s Sustainable Food Initiative.

“We wanted to build a low-budget greenhouse with the materials we had on hand,” said junior Jordan Leaman, student president of ESW and a computer science major. “To make it more sustainable, we designed it to be completely solar-powered.”

In a continued collaboration of EMU initiatives, EarthKeepers helped to fund the building of the greenhouse, which cost about $600.

Leaman, along with five other students, completed the building project in one impressive eight-hour workday in March.

In addition, ESW used the greenhouse project design to win second place in the undergraduate division of the American Society for Engineering Education regional competition last spring.

Leaman and a team of three others designed an informative poster detailing the structure and aerodynamics of the project.

Under the guidance of Tian and Leaman, ESW has several projects in the works for their second year, including a solar panel canopy to assist in charging the physical plant’s golf carts.

“There are so many possibilities with solar,” said Leaman, “but right now, we’re doing what we can with the limited resources we have.”

In defining ESW, both Tian and Leaman emphasized the discovery of workable solutions to everyday problems.

“Our projects benefit the university and the community,” said Tian proudly. “Our club is a little different because we plan projects instead of activities.”

First-year student Isaiah Williams enjoys the practicality and project-based orientation of the club. “It allows me to utilize what I learned in engineering class and apply it to real life scenarios,” he said.

Like Williams, most members of ESW are students in the pre-engineering program. Others, like Leaman, found their interests sparked by Tian’s “Introduction to Engineering” class.

Leaman remarked, “Engineering has always been my passion, but [Esther] really drew me into the club. I’m excited for the upcoming years; we have some cool projects planned.”