Cal Poly’s Engineers Without Borders Program Recognized with Community Service Award for Volunteering Efforts

Students from Cal Poly's Engineers Without Borders volunteer at a community garden in San Luis Obispo County pre-pandemic. More than 2,000 students have completed over 8,000 volunteer hours through EWB's IMPACT program.

Cal Poly’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter was recently presented with a university Community Service Award for its IMPACT program, which has provided 8,000 volunteer hours to nonprofits in San Luis Obispo County.

Specifically, the EWB has been recognized with the Significant Contribution award, which recognizes an organization that exhibits excellence in identifying a need, creating awareness, providing a new service, or having a lasting impact on a broad community population through its volunteer service.

Cal Poly’s EWB, formed in 2005, has grown to become one of the largest chapters in the country. The student-led nonprofit supports community-driven development programs worldwide through the design and implementation of sustainable engineering projects while creating multidisciplinary and leadership experiences for students.

IMPACT is a program within the organization that organizes volunteering events that unite Cal Poly students and EWB project teams with local nonprofits.

Alex Cushing, an IMPACT coordinator and materials engineering student, said the EWB provides an excellent opportunity to get involved right away.

Students from Cal Poly’s Engineers Without Borders volunteer with dogs before the COVID-19 pandemic. Cal Poly’s EWB was recently presenting a Community Service award for volunteering through its IMPACT program.

“Last year, I came to IMPACT as a freshman and immediately felt like a core member of the team,” he said. “I was put right to work communicating with nonprofits, and that helped prepare me for the lead coordinator role for this quarter. Anyone who wants to be active in EWB has the chance to do so, and that is something that makes EWB stand out.”

That accessibility is also what motivated Gaurav Joshi, fellow IMPACT coordinator and computer science major.

“The most rewarding thing for me in EWB is being part of a community of motivated people and knowing that IMAPCT will continue to work with these nonprofits and more in the future,” Joshi said.

IMPACT volunteers with major partners each quarter and volunteers with additional nonprofits at least once a year during IMPACT weekend, the coordinators said. Some of the nonprofits they’ve worked with include One Cool Earth, Growing Grounds, Las Brisas Retirement Home, Meade Canine Rescue and SLO Botanical Garden. The volunteer work has included establishing community gardens, building fences for canine shelters, supporting senior citizens, and assisting local race fundraisers.

Through the years, more than 2,000 volunteers have contributed over 8,000 hours.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteering with the nonprofits has been suspended.  EWB, however, continues to hold project meetings and officer board meetings online. And IMAPCT is currently working on transitioning next year’s officers.

Prior to COVID-19, Cal Poly’s EWB had five international project teams, including ones in Fiji, Malawi, Nicaragua, Thailand and San Luis Obispo County. The organization works to address issues that include water, education, food security, sanitation and energy by collaborating with partnered communities.