To be the Beating Heart of the Engineering Movement

In April 2000, Dr. Bernard Amadei, professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, visited a community in San Pablo, Belize, to assess their water supply. He learned that the 950 Mayan Indians living in the heart of the Belize jungle lacked clean water and sanitation infrastructure, and that most of the community’s children did not attend school because their time was dedicated to collecting water from miles away.

EWB-USA founder Dr. Bernard Amadei visits with children in an EWB-USA partner community in East Africa.

EWB-I was founded in 2004 by Prof. Bernard Amadei, who teaches civil engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a recipient of the Hoover Medal.

While the community had the natural resources and motivation to build a reliable water supply system, they lacked the technical skills to design a lasting solution. Professor Amadei went home and consulted colleagues on potential solutions, then returned to the community with a prototype and fourteen of his students to put the plan into action. The team installed a clean water system supplied and powered by a waterfall a quarter-mile from the community. This simple and low-cost solution was the first EWB-USA project!

Dr. Amadei continued to harness the power of professional and student engineers to complete similar low-tech, high-impact projects in other developing countries by officially founding Engineers Without Borders USA in 2002. Since then, EWB-USA has grown from a handful of passionate individuals to an organization of more than 14,100 passionate members working on hundreds of engineering projects across the globe.

“Improving the lives of the 5 billion people whose main concern is to stay alive by the end of each day on our planet is no longer an option for engineers; it is an obligation.” -Dr. Bernard Amadei, EWB-USA Founder

By all accounts, Dr. Bernard Amadei had established an impressive, though mainstream, academic career in engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he arrived in 1982 after earning his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. In 2000, however, his career took an abrupt turn.

Invited by a representative of the Belize Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Amadei visited San Pablo, a Mayan village of 250 people, to examine the possibility of designing and installing a water delivery system to the village. What he saw, he said, “broke my heart”: a village with no electricity, running water or sanitation, and, because most villagers worked at a nearby banana plantation, the responsibility for carrying drinking and irrigation water from a nearby river to the village fell to the village children. Professor Amadei returned to Boulder and recruited eight University of Colorado students in civil and environmental engineering, as well as a local civil engineering expert, to work on the project.

He eventually founded Engineers Without Borders – USA (EWB-USA), which applies a combination of professional expertise and selfless compassion to remote areas of the world. Over the past seven years, and buoyed by the success of the Belize project, Dr. Amadei and EWB-USA have since grown to 224 projects in 43 countries, 8,000 members and 235 established university and professional chapters. In 2001, he co-founded the EWB-International Network, which is now in 45 countries.

Projects typically “find” Engineers Without Borders. Many projects are brought to the organization by universities with international exchange programs, in-country volunteers or by non-profit organizations that have funding but lack the engineering expertise to get the projects done.

Back at the University of Colorado, Dr. Amadei has created a new program called Engineering for Developing Communities. Its overall mission is to educate globally responsible engineering students and professionals who can offer sustainable and appropriate solutions to the endemic problems faced by developing communities worldwide.

What is your personal mission statement? Bernard Amadei implores us to be compassionate as he tells the story of “Technology with Soul.” Organizations like Engineers Without Borders, which he founded, have driven huge positive results globally by combining technology with compassion.

Dr. Amadei’s engineering solutions are grounded in the principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability that restore human dignity, peace and economic health to poor villages. And he is a man of action, going well beyond the halls of academia to help students and professionals in the United States and elsewhere live lives with purpose by freeing others from oppression and poverty. Through his organization and outreach efforts around the world, Professor Amadei is leaving a legacy of others who will carry on his work.

With the practical insight of an engineer and the compassion of a global humanitarian, Dr. Bernard Amadei is literally transforming pockets of the world that lack even the most basic living infrastructures. His talented and dedicated network of academics, professionals and students is engaged in making sustainable changes that are profoundly improving the lives and fortunes of some of the world’s poorest people.



“A sustainable world where engineering enables long-term positive social and global development for the benefit of people and the environment everywhere.”


 EWB-I seeks to promote collaboration so that collectively we can achieve more than the sum of our parts and fulfill our mission