Five Volunteer Engineering Opportunities

If you’re looking to give back, opportunities abound, from right in your backyard to all the way across the globe

7 November 2017

A middle school student wants to build a robot for his science fair; another has an idea for sanitizing lake water, making it potable. Both need experienced mentors that can help refine and shape their ideas and give those projects flight. Volunteering to mentor students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is a perfect opportunity for engineers who want to give back to their communities. Mentoring is just one way engineers can volunteer and use their talents, and it is easy to find such opportunities.

Mentoring students is one of those volunteer engineering activities that can last for years—with long-lasting and far-reaching benefits. The impact on both volunteer and student can last a lifetime. Mentors sharpen skills such as communication and patience, and the students are often exposed to cutting-edge concepts. In underprivileged school districts especially, mentors also serve to lead by example. For those not looking for a long-term commitment, other opportunities are available, such as mentoring for a science fair, robotics competition or an after-school enrichment activity. A quick call to your neighborhood school will point you in the right direction.

Thinking more globally than your local school district? Engineers Without Borders (EWB) partners with communities in some of the world's roughest places. Volunteer engineers have installed solar panels, dug wells and built footbridges. Roughly 16,800 engineers are members of EWB, helping people in far-flung parts of the world sustainably meet their basic needs. Volunteers include engineers, community members and students. Each partner community is properly equipped to maintain each project so it remains functional after the volunteers have returned home.

Engineering World Health works worldwide to improve healthcare delivery in economically deprived countries. Volunteer engineers in the biomedical field can use their talents to install and repair life-saving equipment in the world’s most resource-poor hospitals, and to train local technicians to run the machinery, resulting in sustainable solutions. Engineering World Health programs are currently operating in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

There is no more precious a global commodity than water. Pure Water for the World partners with the community members that are served, engaging everyone in the process. Goals and implementation strategies are developed with all participating parties. This type of collaboration helps communities acquire the tools and knowledge to own their water projects. In addition, families agree to take part in safe water, sanitation and hygiene education training.

There is an old phrase, “Function before form.” But architectural engineers understand that design can be a tool to build a more sustainable future. Through a worldwide network of building professionals, Architecture for Humanity provides design, construction and development services to communities in need. For some, projects involve disaster mitigation; for others, construction oversight. The organization implements multi-faceted solutions based on need.

People volunteer for different reasons. As an engineer, you may wish to use your talents to improve your own community—or one that is a world away. Volunteering not only benefits the recipient of your time, but it also provides an opportunity to develop new skills, as well as build on existing experience and knowledge.

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