Engineering students put their skills to work to help non-profits
First-year students from the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering spent the past semester creating fundraising ideas and project proposals for local not-for-profit organizations to support their engineering and science-related endeavours.
It is a mutually beneficial relationship that gives students real-world experience while teaching them that engineering is about being responsible citizens who serve their communities, says Laura Patterson, UBCO engineering school instructor.
“Community organizations have a variety of needs which engineers and their unique skills can be of service,” Patterson said, adding the project is supported by the Community Service Learning Program at the Kelowna campus.
“Engineers can deliver unique fundraising ideas. Last year, Inn from the Cold took one group’s idea for a ‘Push to End Homelessness’ initiative and raised over $18,000.”
Recently, in a friendly competition, 38 groups of student engineers presented their final fundraising ideas to eight not-for-profit organizations, with each organization selecting a “winning” idea.
Carter Merwin, a first-year engineering student whose group delivered the winning fundraising proposal to the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society, says the experience exceeded expectations.
The group’s proposal idea was selling the naming rights of trestles. It allows the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society to gain the highest revenues with the lowest initial cost, all while having complete control of who they can sell to.
“This opportunity was beneficial as it required real-life problem solving skills in order to help a non-profit organization meet their needs. Further on in our careers we will be put in similar situations where proposals will need to be won,” said Merwin.
“But what was really exceptional about this project is it allowed first-year engineers the opportunity to help sustain something important to the community.”
This year’s participating not-for-profit organizations were:
• Kelowna & District Society for Community Living (KDSCL)
• Kelowna Community Food Bank
• Central Okanagan Heritage Society
• The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA)
• Arion Therapeutic Farm
• Okanagan Science Centre
• Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society
• Community Access Dental Centre.
“Engineering is a profession that holds high respect within the community,” said Patterson.
“The design, communication, research, audience analysis, and business skills that engineers build and develop throughout their careers are invaluable to not-for-profit organizations to solve challenges.
“And it is an engineer’s obligation to serve humanity and share their skills for the public good.”