Cal Poly Engineers Without Borders Team Wins 2016 Premier Project Award

Cal Poly students’ bicycle-powered maize mill won the 2016 Premier Project Award from Engineers Without Borders USA. Cal Poly was one of three student chapters out of more than 200 nationwide to receive the award. 

The Engineers Without Borders-Cal Poly (EWB) Malawi team designed the mill for residents of Kumponda, Malawi, who face a limited growing season and other food-production challenges. In order to ground maize into flour to make nsima, a food staple of the region, villagers must travel hours by foot twice a month to access a costly electric maize mill that is also unreliable due to power outages.

The student-designed bicycle-powered mill makes maize production more economical and reliable. The EWB Malawi team, made up of some 20 students, designed and developed prototypes on campus with help from mentors in industry. “Throughout the year, we continually communicate our progress and incorporate suggestions from Kumponda via our NGO partner, Action for Environmental Sustainability,” explained team member Chris Apple. 

Last December, four team members traveled to Kumponda in southwestern Africa to present the prototype and provide instruction on how to build mills using locally available, low-cost parts. The visiting EWB students included team leaders Jennifer Tuttle and Spencer Jemes, both civil engineering majors; and environmental engineering majors Apple and Cate Kraska.

“The community members have shown unbelievable commitment and enthusiasm toward the project,” Jemes said. “They impressed us every single day with their ideas for the mill, while keeping an open mind for collaboration.”

Noted Kraska, “When our implementation visit was over, everyone was excited about the progress we and the Kumponda community made towards implementing a sustainable solution to hunger.”

Engineers Without Borders – USA is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities across the globe to improve their quality of life. The partnership implementing sustainable engineering projects, while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students. 

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Photo: Spencer Jemes and villagers inspect the mill prototype.

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