“If you’re familiar with Doctors Without Borders, it’s a very similar program,” says Joshua Clyncke, the president of Mountaineers Without Borders (MWB) — a new club on campus focused on tackling real world engineering problems on an international scale.
Clyncke recalls a meeting that took place last year in the Rady Building, where a group of engineering professors threw out numerous ideas for students to get involved with on campus. As that meeting wound down, Clyncke signed up to help start MWB.
“You take a community in another country that needs help solving some kind of problem — and you come up with an idea and a plan. At the end, you travel to the [selected] country and implement the solution,” he explains.
Engineers Without Borders is a name shared by numerous nonprofits (some are formally linked to each other, others are not) around the world — often student driven — for organizations that assist in humanitarian aid and development projects internationally.
In his research, Clyncke discovered that the existing organizations under the Engineers Without Borders umbrella were not the best fit for Western’s current resources and goals.
Instead, Clyncke has begun forging a partnership with a Colombia-based organization called Diversa. Currently, MWB is in the exploratory phase — searching for a local Colombian community to partner with — and an associated real world problem they will hopefully meet with a material solution.
“That part is all done virtually, between the members of the community in Colombia, and us here at Western,” notes Clyncke. “The first semester is heavy on community outreach — it’s finding the community and connecting with them to fully understand their problem, their idea, and how we believe we can help.”
Once the basic idea is established, Western students will work throughout the academic year to design prototypes for their selected project, under the leadership of Dr. Lauren Cooper, a University of Colorado professor teaching mechanical engineering at the Rady School of Computer Science and Engineering.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to create a club such as this one. A turning point for me in
engineering, when I was a student, was getting to do projects in developing countries. I’m very
passionate about making this club open to everybody, not only engineering students, because
we need all types of thinkers to solve problems in the world,” says Cooper.
Once MWB has formulated an implementation plan, the students will decamp to Colombia for two weeks to implement the project — hopefully in the summer of 2023. Once they arrive, they will also be networking with their partners on the ground.
“They put a large emphasis on teaching. It’s not just us going down and building something. It’s us going down there and trying to build a knowledge set and a skillset to that community,” says Clyncke.
In these efforts, Josh will be assisted by Grace Borden (the group’s vice president), Zoe Camp (the secretary), and Shelby Olsen (MWB’s social media manager). But Clyncke is eager to recruit new students to expand the Mountaineers Without Borders team.
He adds that even though the organization’s work will center around engineering, there is a need for all types of focuses and strengths on the club’s team.
“The actual physical building of the deliverable is a very small part of the year-long project,” says Clyncke. “So, we’re looking for more than just engineers.”
One of the group’s foremost needs is fundraising —supplementing funds made available to student organizations by Western, and money committed by donors invested in supporting MWB’s mission.
Additionally, the club will need students who speak Spanish — including Borden, who is eager to practice her language skills in Colombia — to break down language barriers, as well as members to act as leaders, managers, and logistical support throughout the project’s duration.
Clyncke implores Western students of all academic disciplines and backgrounds to consider joining Mountaineers Without Borders for a variety of reasons, including the experiential aspect — noting that it’s an amazing opportunity for students to gain experience beyond the classroom.
“You’re really going to learn how to take an idea and implement it,” he adds.
On a more philosophical note, Clyncke says that MWB will allow Mountaineers to put their budding, interdisciplinary skills to work in order to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
For interested students, the club’s first meeting will take place on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Rady Building. You can also find MWB at the upcoming Taste of Western event — taking place on Sept. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. on the University Center (UC) South Patio.
For more information on Mountaineers Without Border, you can email Joshua Clyncke at Joshua.Clyncke@western.edu or Grace.Borden@western.edu