Engineers Test Leadership, Teamwork and Project Management Skills, 7,500 Miles from Home

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Pratt & Whitney Design Engineer Wei Guo was nearly 7,500 miles from home.

In April, Guo was in Sabhung, Nepal, meeting with his Engineers Without Borders team and local community members about a project to bring water from a spring down a steep hillside to the homes up above. "We were talking about what needed to be done by both sides," Guo said. "I took a step back and looked around and realized that without the dedication of the Engineers Without Borders team, this project wouldn't happen. I got a tremendous feeling about being able to make a difference."

Guo is one of about a dozen Pratt & Whitney engineers who have taken part in Engineers Without Borders projects around the world – from Guatemala to Nepal, and from Nicaragua to Cameroon to India.

Guo and four other Pratt & Whitney engineers – Emily Porter, Lee Bouldin and Spencer Dew (all design engineers in Hot Section Engineering) and Pat Caursone, a quality engineer in the Quality department, are part of the Nepal project. "They're friends of mine, and I told them about the program," Guo said. "I learned about Engineers Without Borders through a 'lunch and learn' event and they did, too. There's such a personal commitment, not just the time in-country, but also the tremendous amount of work that goes into it before and after – designing the systems, building it, making revisions and making sure it's sustainable."

The Nepal project was particularly challenging since it involved bringing the water 1,000 feet uphill. "We had to identify the source, capture it, build pumping and storage systems and provide power through the use of solar panels. There is no electricity in the community," Guo said. "We were engineering on-site."

Engineers Without Borders, founded in 2002, works with communities in 47 developing countries in the area of natural resources. Most projects involve providing clean water.

Guo and the other Pratt & Whitney engineers went to Nepal for the implementation stage in staggered, two-week shifts from March to June as part of a larger team that included Hartford-area civil engineers and retired engineers. If problems arose on-site, team members could get assistance from others back in the States with the resources to help.

Guo is dedicated to the Engineers Without Borders cause. He joined the Hartford Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders last May and was the project lead for an earlier assessment trip to Nepal. He's currently president of the Hartford Professional Chapter.

"Your engineering skills are very transferrable," he said. "From a broad perspective, the Nepal project involved civil engineering, so why are five jet engine engineering employees doing the work? You get to use your engineering mind to design and develop a project. It also tests your leadership, teamwork and project management and communication skills."

If you're interested in learning more about Engineers Without Borders, visit www.ewb-usa.org or the Hartford Professional Chapter at www.ewb-hpc.org.

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