Engineering Students Making a Difference in the World While Setting Themselves Up for Engineering Career Success

I had the opportunity recently to give my Engineer Your Own Success seminar to the engineering students at Clemson University.  While I was there, I sat down with a few of the graduate students to discuss their current work and their engineering career plans.  One of the students that I met, Jeff Plumblee, told me about an amazing project that he happened to fall into, which now consumes most of his time.  Jeff oversees Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC).  CEDC consists of nearly 40 students who are volunteering to help design and oversee the construction of several infrastructure projects in Haiti.

This is not a project that was started through an organization like Engineers Without Borders, someone simply asked Jeff to visit Haiti and asked him if it was a project that he would consider undertaking.  Three years later, 40 students, whose majors include civil engineering, financial management, English, environmental engineering, electrical engineering, sociology, and animal and veterinary sciences are part of the team.  The group has expanded from their water treatment and distribution system in Cange, Haiti, and is now addressing water and sanitation needs in 6 villages near Cange.

Some of Jeff’s day to day tasks include working with interdepartmental faculty, visiting Haiti from time to time, working with his team to ensure the safety and productivity of the engineering students that are currently in Haiti, and holding weekly classes with the entire team.  To create some structure for the volunteers, Jeff and the other team leaders have created 4 groups or departments: Current Operations, Projects, Design Component Specialists, and Communications and Training.  These groups help to ensure that all aspects of the projects are covered and the students are actively engaged.  Fluor employee David Vaughn, the group’s industry advisor, participates in multiple team meetings per week, offering expertise ranging from management to latrine design. 

I asked Jeff to explain what this experience on this project has meant to him and how he thinks it will affect the development of his and the other team members engineering careers.  Here are his thoughts:  “Now, more than ever, it is critical for engineering students to be well rounded.  CEDC is designed for multi-semester participation and commitment.  When a student joins CEDC, he or she joins a team, working towards a common goal.  After 2 or 3 semesters in CEDC, this student is expected to step up and become a project manager or director.  As a student-led organization, we not only address design issues, but we work to develop students’ communication skills, teamwork, leadership, followership, and cultural awareness.  Sure, CEDC looks great on a resume, but graduates who participated in CEDC have seen the most benefit when they begin work and have a leg-up on their peers in terms of real-world experience.”

I commend Jeff and the rest of the CEDC volunteers for all of their effort on these wonderful projects! If you would like to learn more about the project or you know of a person or organization that might be willing to donate to the project, please contact Jeff at jplumbl@clemson.edu.

 

Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP, ACC
Author of Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career

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