Student clubs spotlight: Engineers Without Borders

EWB is an outlet for students to gather and discuss different global issues

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a Canada-wide and sub-Saharan registered charity whose main goal is eradication of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The EWB chapter at UBC Okanagan was started four years ago by a group of engineering students, who wanted to create an outlet for students to gather and look at different global issues.

Today the chapter has 20 members and 10 executive members—and growing. Members are encouraged to think differently, adapt, and take up leadership in the pursuit of global-minded understanding.

Student involvement comes from every faculty, and because EWB operates on the premise of social engineering, students can apply any skill set to solve social-based problems.

Breanna Jackson is serving her first year as chapter president. She started out as a regular member and then became VP Administration and Communications Coordinator. Jackson is in her 4th year of Civil Engineering, prepped to graduate in May.

Fourth-year mechanical engineering student Bret Nestor is the EWB’s return junior fellow. He visited Zambia last summer working for the EWB venture of Business Development Services Africa (BDSA).

“EWB has chapters at universities across Canada. At the chapter level,” she says, “it’s a place where students can gather to ask tough question and learn to think in different ways—outside the box, apply learned knowledge to new and different kinds of questions.”

Jackson says the chapter fundraises and holds awareness events in order to send one Junior Fellow (intern) to Africa every year. They’ve sent two interns to Africa—one to Malawi, the other to Zambia. The chapter puts out a call for people who are interested and it’s a competitive interview process, which runs to the national chapter level, and is based on experiences and passions.

UBC Okanagan’s EWB chapter focuses on three “ventures”: Fair Trade, which represents Fair Trade Canada on campus; Advocacy, which evaluates local and Canadian issues; and Global Engineering, which is more specific to the School of Engineering.

“Students come together to look at curriculum on campus and industry members to change interpretation of what an engineer is,” explains Jackson. “They discuss real-world needs to adapt, to face social issues. The main goal is to change and adapt first- and second-year engineering curriculum to have a more global-minded component.”

WHY get involved? (1) Leadership. EWB focuses on teaching everyone to think differently, adapt, and see the non-obvious. (2) Global-minded understanding. “See the issues that happen not just at home, but the ones far away,” says Jackson. “Places in Africa have such potential and they are hungry for innovative grassroots ideas that are sources from home or from half way around the world at UBC. Our last Junior Fellow worked on a business management system for local cotton farmers.”

WHEN? Weekly meetings are Thursdays at 5 p.m. in EME 2111. Ventures will schedule their own meetings if you want to work specifically with them. EWB also frequently holds on-campus and off-campus events. “There are many options to get involved,” says Jackson. “For example, if you are passionate about one specific issue. Or to improve your skills and ask tough questions.”

WHO? Any year, level, faculty, or school. 

HOW? Come to meetings. Start by emailing Breanna Jackson at


Leave a Reply