While some may categorize engineering as a strictly scientific pursuit, the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship program is bringing attention to the humanitarian work being accomplished with engineering.
In March, HESE will showcase its greenhouse project at the Smithsonian and in April at the EPA Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“[We’re] really proud of being invited to the Smithsonian. It is very competitive and only 10 to 12 universities receive invites,” said Khanjan Mehta, director of the HESE program.
This trip will also provide the opportunity for the program to network, Mehta added. And eventually, he said they would love to bring the greenhouses to South Asia and Latin America, as well.
The Sustainable Design Expo will serve to educate people, showing them that engineering “can be a care-giving profession,” Mehta said.
Though the HESE program was formalized a year and a half ago, it had been around for about a decade prior. The greenhouse project has been underway for four years.
HESE has a variety of ongoing projects with different students working on each. The program mostly consists of undergraduate students, with about 60 students working on the core ventures, and about 300 students working on smaller problems that the core projects are experiencing.
The goal of the greenhouse project was to create affordable greenhouses for small rural farmers living in East Africa to provide them with a way to grow food all year round, Mehta said.
After designing and field-testing the greenhouses, HESE licensed the technology to Mavuuno Greenhouses in Kenya during the summer of 2012. They are currently negotiating a similar agreement in West Africa.
In addition, last summer, HESE students traveled to Kenya and Rwanda to “facilitate the licensing process, and to train the people who would be constructing the greenhouses,” Arianna De Reus (sophomore-community, environment and development) said.
Though different students have worked on the project throughout the years, it has continued to make an impact on students after they graduated.
“This project motivated me to pursue engineering design from a humanitarian perspective,” Min Pack, Class of 2012, wrote in an email, who still plays a consulting role in the project.
The unique aspect of the HESE program is that it is open to all majors, not just engineering students. It is an opportunity to learn from other people’s perspectives. HESE is an interdisciplinary pursuit, said Shruthi Baskaran, Class of 2012.