Engineers Without Borders group elevating STEM in the community

Contact: Cindy Wagner

Jillian Bright

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Kids may call it slime, but the technical name is Oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid that changes viscosity under stress. Think cornstarch and water and the fun kids have playing with it. For a group of children in a Kalamazoo English as a Second Language learning group, the Western Michigan University chapter of Engineers Without Borders shared Oobleck and other STEM concepts with them and everyone had fun at the same time.

“Engineers Without Borders is known for its work worldwide, but we also work to grow interest in STEM and spread the capabilities of engineering in local communities,” says Jillian Bright, an electrical engineering senior in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Bright is also president of the WMU Engineers Without Borders chapter, a student organization that is also dedicated providing communities with an easier, healthier or safer way of living.

The Kalamazoo project was designed to create interest among the students towards science and engineering while helping to overcome the language barrier the students face. 

A biomedical science and Spanish major, Andy Kaczmar participated in the project to share his love of science and language. “One reason I got involved is because of my Spanish interests. Personally, I found that I enjoy working with kids and that I enjoy teaching.”

The RSO led the students in activities that included building towers with marshmallows and spaghetti, crafting homemade compasses, and making and manipulating  Oobleck. 

For Bright, Kaczmar and their faculty advisor, Dr. Pnina Ari-Gur, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, the project is one of numerous endeavors the group initiates. They each have their own goals in achieving their common purpose.

“I chose to join Engineers Without Borders because I wanted to work with other students interested in helping the world the same way I am,” says Bright. “I want to aid in changing the world to provide a better life for everyone. In Engineers Without Borders, each member works to bring important resources to communities in need all over the world, such as clean drinking water or electricity.”

Andy Kaczmar

“I joined Engineers Without Borders because it was an excellent opportunity to support my community and because of my Spanish interests,” says Kaczmar. “There is an international project in Nicaragua that aims to provide clean water to communities that need it. They need Spanish translators, which combined my desire to help other with another way to practice my Spanish at the same time.”

Ari-Gur says students participating in the projects gain important skills, including teamwork, solving real engineering problems, leadership and fundraising.

“This is a rare opportunity to plan major projects, work with groups and organizations from different cultures and languages, learn to fund raise and maximize resources within a budget—all invaluable skills,” says Ari-Gur. “All these developed skills appeal to potential employers who consider them important.”

Students can find out more about joining on Experience WMU. 

To learn more about the WMU chapter, contact the leaders.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.