UBC is full of passionate individuals trying to make the world a better place. Sustaingineering is a club where such individuals work to engineer sustainable solutions for the problems in our world.
I met with my friend Francis, a Sustaingineering team member, to find out just what this club, with its curious name, is all about.
Francis is a 4th-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Biology with a specialization in Food and Environment. He’s a bright and affable guy who speaks with a broad smile on his face. I was lucky to have a chance to speak with him before he packed up and headed to Mexico for a Sustaingineering project.
He was first introduced to Sustaingineering while attending a Go Global conference in Chongqing, China: “I met Matt Amyotte, who turned out to be the graduate advisor for the club. We got to know each other, and by the end of the conference I told him I really liked the sound of Sustaingineering and asked if I could join.”
The club is always happy to have more hands on deck, and Francis found a spot on the Impact Analysis Team.
The name might be a bit of a mouthful, Francis acknowledges, but it accurately describes what the club does. As he says, the goal of the club is “to make sustainable humanitarian innovations...to create things that make people’s lives better, especially disadvantaged people, or people in remote communities.”
While they’re still a young club, they’ve done some remarkable work already. Their current project is a partnership with ENICALSA, an NGO in Nicaragua.
“What they do is give solar pumps out to smallholder farmers in Nicaragua. They’ve given about 30 out. They install them, show the farmers how to use them, and repair them if need be.”
The pumps are solar-powered and used for both domestic and agricultural needs.
Unfortunately, some problems arose with the pumps and they proved more difficult to repair than previously thought. If pumps went down, farmers would have to wait for a technician to come for repairs—but the wait often proved costly.
Luckily, Sustaingineering stepped in to help. They set to work on developing a device to monitor the pumps. “The device records various measurements,” Francis explains, “like ambient temperature, wind speed, and, crucially, water flow through the pump. If it started going down too much, then you know that there’s a problem with the pump.” A 3G message is then sent to ENICALSA, who can quickly dispatch repairs for the pump.
True to their name, Sustaingineering developed a sustainable solution to a humanitarian problem—and for only $30 a unit!
Alongside their work in Nicaragua, Sustaingineering is in the process of developing instructional modules to educate elementary and high school students in STEM subjects. They hope to inspire a cohort of young learners to potentially create positive change through science and engineering.
In line with their global ambitions, the club also has a partnership with another Sustaingineering chapter at the University of Tec De Monterrey in Mexico. Diversity is one of the club’s greatest strengths.
The club is comprised of students from several different faculties, and as Francis says, “it’s not like you have to do what you study, you can follow your interests. We’re a non-exclusionary club, we welcome anyone.”
Francis sees a bright future for the club, particularly with his project at Tec de Monterrey beginning: “We want to spread the message, and start as many university chapters as possible…. [and] have an integrated ecosystem of different Sustaingineering teams.”
If my conversation with Francis proved anything, it’s that the world could stand to benefit from more Sustaingineering teams just like the one here at UBC.