Engineer ProfileAndrew Kreider, PSU Graduate and Global Advocate

Aug 13, 2013

Andrew Kreider along with other EWB-ASME-PSU volunteers interacts with the students of Baoma, Sierra Leone creating spaghetti towers. Photo courtesy of Beth Milligan

When The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) ASME Student Section was looking for a humanitarian engineering project to undertake, they looked no further than the institution’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Chapter. The two teams aligned and with the support of two ASME Diversity Action Grants (DAG), they designed and constructed a water storage and treatment system in Baoma, Sierra Leone.

“It was the most interesting thing I got to do as an undergraduate,” says Andrew Kreider, a recently graduated ME major and was Chair of the PSU ASME Student Section. The project consisted of building a retaining wall to protect the most heavily-used water source from runoff contamination, and a latrine for the elementary school. “These infrastructure projects drew myself and others in more meaningfully thanmostlab classesdid.”

Not only did Kreider enjoy the effort and camaraderie, but he also gained skills that he recognizes are very attractive to employers. “For the first time, on our own, we navigated everything that had to do with project management,” he says, from delegation and personnel issues, to funding and logistical challenges, to internal and external communications and even diplomacy. On the ground in Sierra Leone, “the students are running the show,” clarifies John Lamancusa, PSU Professor of ME and Advisor to PSU EWB Chapter, which is a priceless opportunity: “You can’t learn this stuff in the classroom.”

One particularly useful hurdle that the students overcame had to do with designing overly-complex systems. “Engineers tend to be more complicated in their planning” than they often need to be, says Lamancusa. But as the teams found in Sierra Leone, simplicity and adaptability were key. “If the Romans didn’t think of a technology to use, we probably shouldn’t use it either,” he adds. “Before I traveled, I was all for building a latrine that had multiple compartments, with each feature requiring more money and more complexity,” recalls Kreider. Once his team visited the site and spoke with the clients, they realized that a simpler system was best. “We scrapped many of our plans along the way,” he concedes.

Now, as he embarks on graduate school in environmental engineering at PSU, Kreider recalls his stint with ASME and EWB with great fondness. “The organizations constituted a major part of my engineering education, and I'd be happy to do it all over again,” he says cheerfully. But he doesn’t have much time to reflect because he and the team are still hard at work: they are currently developing a prototype of a water filter that potentially every family in the village could easily use in their homes. They will travel again to Africa in December 2013 to install the filters and train the villagers in their use.

----------------------------- Diversity Action Grant Applications may be submitted from the beginning of the Fall Semester until the Deadline of November 1st.

By Alaina G. Levine