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Engineers Building a Better World

CU-Boulder civil engineering professor and Engineers Without Borders-USA founder Bernard Amadei began channeling his energy toward sustainable development after visiting a poor rural village in Belize. “I noticed a lot of young girls who were carrying water—that was their job—from the river to the village, back and forth,” Amadei says. “As a result, they could not go to school. It broke my heart. And I decided I was going to do something about it.”

Amadei, fellow CU-Boulder faculty members, and engineering students now play a stronger role in solving these types of problems thanks to the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities. The center was established last year by a $5 million gift from Mort Mortenson (BS ’58, civil engineering), Alice Mortenson, and M. A. Mortenson Company to support the Engineering for Developing Communities program.

Through the center, CU-Boulder engineering students and faculty partner with schools, nongovernmental organizations and citizens to help build communities—evaluating the sustainability of Peru water and sanitation projects; maximizing the efficiency of fuel briquettes as a firewood alternative in Afghanistan; and working with Crow Nation in Montana to build cost-effective, energy-efficient housing.

Mortenson says this work represents core values of his family and company alike. “As builders, our service is to build facilities that last; as family, our service is to help individuals, families, and institutions in sustainable ways,” he says. “Our values connect to the Center’s
work. Together, we make a meaningful difference.”

“With all of the innovations in all the corners of the world, people still don’t have access to basic needs,” Amadei says. “As engineers, it is no longer an option for us to address those needs. It is an obligation.”

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