Engineers for a Sustainable World

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Engineers for a Sustainable World
ESW 2-line logo

Founded 2001

Incorporated 2013
Type NGO
Focus Sustainability, environmental protection, education
Method Student-led technical projects
Key people
Dr. Alexander Dale, Executive Director
Slogan Design, Educate, Build
Mission ESW mobilizes students and professionals through education, technical projects and collaborative action to impact local and global sustainability challenges.
Formerly called
Engineers Without Frontiers - USA

Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) is a not-for-profit network headquartered in Washington DC. ESW is an umbrella organization with chapters established at 50 colleges and universities and professional chapters in three cities, all located primarily in the United States.[2] ESW chapters work on technical engineering projects that have a focus on sustainability and environmental issues. Projects can be located either on-campus, in the local community, or internationally. Chapters are made up of students, and are semi-autonomous.

ESW was known as Engineers Without Frontiers USA (EWF-USA) through 2004. ESW was established in 2001 in Ithaca, New York at Cornell University. ESW was based at Cornell from 2001 through August 30, 2007, when it moved its headquarters to the San Francisco Bay Area. In July 2011, ESW moved its headquarters to Merced, California at the University of California, Merced. In July 2013, the organization became an independent legal entity with its headquarters currently in Washington DC.


ESW is managed by a distributed National Team that consists largely of volunteers. They include the Executive Director, Projects & Education Director, Chapter Relations Director, Branding & Technology Director, Communications Director, and Development Director, along with affiliated departments. Volunteers include current chapter members as well as graduated professionals. Since incorporation, the National Team is overseen by a Board of Directors.

ESW National Team [3]
Name Position University Affiliation
Brittany Bennett Executive Director Professional
Erin Rose Briggs Deputy Director Professional
Chris Thai Chapter Relations Director Professional
Melinda George Development Director Professional
NIchole Heil Projects & Education Director Professional
Suzzanne Gamboa Projects & Education Director Professional
Alexandria Julius Communications Director Professional

ESW also has a Board of Directors with additional members from academia and corporations.

ESW Board Members
Name Affiliation
Kyle Gracey (Chair) Carnegie Mellon University
Alexander Dale Professional

On its official website, ESW defines its vision as the following:[4]

A world of environmental, social, and economic prosperity created and sustained by local and global collective action

ESW defines its mission as:

To forge innovative, lasting solutions to local and global sustainability challenges.


  • Design and implement sustainable projects through our student and professional chapters.
  • Educate and train individuals and organizations on sustainable policies and practices.
  • Build a global network of communities with a shared culture of sustainability.

ESW defines its goals as follows:[4]

In support of the mission, ESW's primary goals are to:

  • Stimulate and foster an increased, and more diverse community of engineers;
  • Bring together students and professionals of various disciplines to create lasting solutions with immediate impacts;
  • Infuse sustainability into the practice and studies of every engineer;
  • Encourage innovative ideas that promote environmental, economic, and social sustainability;
  • Increase community participation in sustainable engineering and development worldwide.

Organization History[edit]

While earning an engineering master's degree at Cornell University, Regina Clewlow began developing the vision for Engineers Without Frontiers USA (EWF-USA) in early 2001. Working with her friend and mentor, Krishna Athreya, Regina began to develop the framework for EWF-USA’s national organization. As a part of an MBA course at Cornell, she developed the business plan for EWF-USA and secured a partnership with a non-profit incubator based at Cornell called the Center for Transformative Action.[5] EWF-USA was then officially established, with Regina Clewlow as its founding executive director.

In the spring of 2002, the first collegiate chapters were formed at Cornell and Pennsylvania State University. By December 2002, chapters had formed at other universities across the United States, including Stanford, Northwestern, Caltech, and UC-Berkeley. In March 2004, EWF-USA changed its name to Engineers for a Sustainable World following a dispute with Engineers Without Borders - USA over the similarity between the two names and to broaden its vision to include driving sustainability efforts in the United States . In October 2006, the current world-in-gear logo was adopted. In 2007, the ESW national office relocated from Ithaca, New York, to the San Francisco Bay Area. In September 2008, Regina Clewlow stepped down as executive director to pursue a doctoral degree in engineering at MIT. She was replaced by Julie Chow.

During Julie Chow's tenure, ESW underwent a period of significant organizational and programmatic restructuring. In 2009, ESW's vision and mission was revised and the national team structure was introduced. Also during this time, greater emphasis was placed on funding domestic sustainability projects. From 2009-2011, the number of active ESW collegiate chapters doubled and paid memberships increased by six-folds.

To further strengthen its ties to the engineering education community and to improve programming in the engineering education space, on July 1, 2011, ESW moved its physical and fiscal home to the University of California, Merced.[6] Concurrent with ESW’s headquarters move, Julie Chow stepped down as executive director. Dr. E. Daniel Hirleman, dean of the school of engineering at UC-Merced, served as acting Executive Director until Dr. Alexander Dale was appointed Executive Director on January 1, 2013.

Notable projects[edit]

University of California, San Diego[edit]

Solar Tree[edit]

In June 2011, a team of ESW-University of California, San Diego won a $10,900 grant to develop a portable solar tree. The team will be working with the UCSD chapter of the American Solar Energy Society to develop the project.[7]

University of Iowa[edit]

Xicotepec, Mexico Project[edit]

Along with Iowa Rotary International district 6000, a team from the University of Iowa worked on providing clean water access to the citizens of Xicotepec, Mexico. The first trip to Xicotepec occurred in 2003. Since then, the project has helped build and supply two school libraries and treated thousands of children for intestinal parasites. Since 2007, a multidisciplinary course called "International Perspectives: Xicotepec" has been offered at Iowa during the spring semester. During spring break, students in the class travel to Xicotepec to continue the work started by ESW and Rotary International.[8]

Northwestern University[edit]

Centennial Solar Panel System[edit]

From 2009 through 2011, members of ESW’s Northwestern chapter worked on a plan to install a 17 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center on Northwestern’s Evanston, Illinois campus. The system was named "Centennial Solar Panel System (CSPS)" in honor of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science’s 100th anniversary in 2009.

The final construction was completed on April 21, 2011. In collaboration with the Northwestern Sustainability Fund, ESW team members raised $117,000 over the project’s two-year history. The largest contribution came from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, which donated $65,083.[9]

Tiny House[edit]

Conceived as a part of the small house movement, a team of ESW-Northwestern students designed and began to construct the Tiny House, a 128 square foot off-the-grid home. The team's goal is to demonstrate the minimization of a person's footprint on the environment. The Tiny House has solar energy and water collection systems. Construction is slated to be completed in fall 2011.[10]

Purdue University[edit]

Global Team for Irrigation in Africa[edit]

In fall 2008, Dr. E. Daniel Hirleman (then the chair of the mechanical engineering department at Purdue) traveled to Rwanda to meet with the Dean of Applied Sciences and Agriculture at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) in Butare, Rwanda. The two agreed to move forward on a collaborative project. In the spring of 2009, a senior design course at Purdue focused on the design of an irrigation system, calling themselves the Global Team for Irrigation in Africa (GTIA). The team has made several trips to NUR to collaborate with Rwandan students on the irrigation system, and has started a chapter of ESW there.[11][12]

Stanford University[edit]

Padang City Tsunami Preparations[edit]

The Stanford University chapter of ESW has been collaborating with Geohazards International (GHI) to study the earthquake and tsunami readiness of Padang, Indonesia. The project began in 2009 as a part of ESW-Stanford’s "Design for a Sustainable World" class. Padang is located close to a tectonic plate boundary, which makes the danger of earthquakes and tsunamis high. The region was affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in addition to a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 2009.[13] The Stanford team traveled to Padang in the summers of 2009 and 2010 to conduct research and work on implementing strategies for tsunami safety.[14][15]

In 2009, the Stanford chapter of ESW received a 10,000 euro Mondialogo Engineering Award from UNESCO and Daimler AG for its work on this project.[16]

The University of Texas at Austin[edit]

Perrin-Whitt CISD Solar Panel[edit]

Students from the University of Texas at Austin chapter of ESW designed and installed a 190 watt grid-tie solar system for the Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District. This system incorporates remote monitoring technology that gathers statistics on the panel and its energy production. This information is made available to students and teachers; the school intends to incorporate data from the panel into its math and science curricula.[17]

Sustainable Design Curriculum[edit]

In collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the National Science Foundation (NSF),[18] ESW has developed curriculum on the topic of sustainable design at the university level. This curriculum is offered at 9 universities in the United States:


  1. ^ "About Us, Engineers for a Sustainable World". ESW Webpage. 
  2. ^ "Collegiate Chapter Directory". Engineers for a Sustainable World Webpage. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ ESW Leadership Retrieved March 24, 2014
  4. ^ a b "Our Vision & Mission". Justin Hess. Retrieved August 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ "ESW". Center for Transformative Action Webpage. Archived from the original on 2011-04-19. 
  6. ^ Leonard, James. "Global Sustainable Engineering Network to Move to UC Merced". UC Merced News Articles. Retrieved 12 August 2011. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Cruz, Manny (9 May 2011). "". San Diego Metro. Retrieved 29 August 2011.  External link in |title= (help)
  8. ^ Drum, Charles (Spring 2010). "A Group Effort: Interdisciplinary team tackles health problems in Mexico" (PDF). University of Iowa Spectator. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Caiola, Sammy (25 April 2011). "First LEED-certified building at NU topped with solar panels". The Daily Northwestern. Archived from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  10. ^ Spak, Kara (29 August 2011). "NU students design complex four-room tiny house". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Calabria, Karen. "Engineering Students Look Outside the U.S. for Training". Webpage of the US Embassy, Brussels, Belgium. Embassy of the United States, Brussels, Belgium. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  12. ^ Tim Bond; T. Reid Gray; Jeremy Koehler; Erin Potrzebowski; Tyler Williams. "Gashora Irrigation Project Final Presentation" (PDF). GlobalHub. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  13. ^ "Indonesia 7.6 Earthquake Triggers Tsunami Alert, Panic in Padang". The Jakarta Globe. 30 September 2009. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  14. ^ "Conceptual Design of Infrastructure for Evacuation from Tsunamis for Padang City, Indonesia" (PDF). Stanford University ESW Webpage. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  15. ^ "ESW in Padang". Stanford University ESW Webpage. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  16. ^ Brown, Tyler (18 November 2009). "'Making headway' in tsunami prep". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved 17 August 2011. [permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Cluett, Libby (23 December 2011). "Sun Power". The Mineral Wells Index. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  18. ^ "Engineering: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Development" (PDF). UNESCO Engineering Sciences Programme. UNESCO Publishing. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 

External links[edit]