Northeastern’s stu­dent chapter of Engi­neers Without Bor­ders has been excep­tion­ally busy over the last 12 months, when water dis­tri­b­u­tion projects in Hon­duras and Uganda have approached the most crit­ical stages of design and implementation.

The stu­dent group’s hard work has cer­tainly paid off: In Feb­ruary, the group received the 2014 Pre­mier Chapter Award from its parent orga­ni­za­tion, EWB-​​USA. “The EWB-​​USA North­eastern Uni­ver­sity chapter con­tinues as a stal­wart among university-​​based EWB-​​USA chap­ters,” the parent orga­ni­za­tion wrote in a news release posted on its web­site. “The chapter’s ded­i­ca­tion is also evi­denced by its level of involve­ment with regional and national EWB-​​USA events.”

The high honor marked the first national award for Northeastern’s group, which was founded in 2005 and has since brought clean water to thou­sands of vil­lagers in Hon­duras and Uganda. Since its incep­tion, Northeastern’s chapter of EWB has also won three regional awards.

It’s no small task we do but it is def­i­nitely rewarding,” said Kelly O’Connell, E’16, the group’s vice pres­i­dent of admin­is­tra­tion. “Not only are we learning and ben­e­fiting from this work, but we are also helping other people.”

In order to qualify for the award, the group had to fill out an appli­ca­tion that asked for an update on cur­rent projects; an expla­na­tion for how the group keeps its mem­bers involved; and a run­down of the group’s work with EWB-​​USA. A focus of the group’s appli­ca­tion was EWB Boot­camp!, a semi­an­nual event hosted at North­eastern that intro­duces new mem­bers to the orga­ni­za­tion and con­nects chap­ters from around New Eng­land to share ideas.

North­eastern EWB com­prises 60 mem­bers, all of whom work on two water dis­tri­b­u­tion projects: one in Uganda and one in Hon­duras. The Hon­duras team has suc­cess­fully com­pleted four projects in dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ties in the Yoro Dis­trict and is working along­side a fifth com­mu­nity on the final phase of a project to help bring clean water to a vil­lage there. They hope to begin the final stages of imple­men­ta­tion in December.

As a result of United States-​​ordered travel restric­tions, a team of EWB alumni has been trav­eling to Hon­duras to imple­ment the group’s designs.

We go to another country and hope­fully affect the lives of hun­dreds of people with our exper­tise,” said Brandon Hornak, E’17, the project director of the Hon­duras group. “It’s very rewarding.”

The Uganda project team has planned three working trips for the remainder of this year; the third one, in August, will cul­mi­nate in the com­ple­tion of five com­mu­nity tap stands. In the past five years the team has con­structed and reha­bil­i­tated rain­water catch basin sys­tems at schools in the vil­lage and drilled two deep wells fitted with hand-​​pumps, while the stu­dents in Boston designed the water dis­tri­b­u­tion system the team is now implementing.

It has been an aggres­sive year,” said Catherine McManus, E’16, the project design leader of the Uganda group.

Working in dif­ferent coun­tries through EWB, she noted, pro­vides mem­bers with a cul­tural edu­ca­tion out­side of engi­neering, one that will con­tinue to become more robust: Since Northeastern’s chapter of EWB is growing and the Hon­duras project is almost com­plete, the group is looking to begin a third water dis­tri­b­u­tion project in Cen­tral or Latin America. “We are not jumping right into it,” O’Connell said. “We’ve been looking on and off for the past year and want a project that we can really work well with.”