University of Vermont

CEMS Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Making a Difference

By Jacqueline Elizabeth Bell

Jacqueline Elizabeth BellI was proud to have established the UVM chapter of Engineers Without Borders in the spring 2006. It is an engineering club not motivated by winning first place in a competition or designing a widget to win a prize. Instead, our projects truly impact the communities we work with. Our current project is taking us to Honduras.

New Evaporators and Fuel for Sugarcane Farmers

Traditionally, wood has been burned as fuel in the sugaring process of many sugarcane farmers in Honduras. This has led to the deforestation of rain forests within the country. As a result, wood prices have risen and sugar farmers have turned to rubber tires as a new fuel source. But neither may be a good choice. We suspect the health degradation of sugar farmers as well as environmental degradation — deforestation and pollution — are the result of these fuel choices.

Respiratory disease is a significant and persistent health issue in these communities. Yet there is very limited data on the extent or effects of particle emissions from different evaporators using different fuels. Our research will investigate alternative oven designs and test particle emissions and alternate fuels. We will also build a prototype at UVM in order to continue research in fuel efficiency and particulate emissions.

Jacqueline Elizabeth Bell and farmers in HondurasOur Partners and Funding

EWB-UVM has partnered on this project with UVM's Community Development and Applied Economics (CDAE) department and Dr. Dan Baker. Dan Baker has been working with communities in Honduras for over eight years. He founded and directs the Ecological Sugar Project, which designed and transferred an efficient small-scale sugarcane evaporator to Honduran farmers. To date, approximately 1,000 farmers are using the evaporator throughout the country with more training programs underway. The CDAE program has also been involved with developing community water systems. Both the sugar project and water systems projects have offered opportunities to integrate community development and engineering perspectives in the effort to promote sustainable development in Honduras.

This project was funded by an award to Jacquie Bell from UVM's URECA! program, under the direction of Dan Baker and with assistance from CEMS faculty Britt Holmen, Michael Rosen, and Allison Pechenick, as well as the professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders, EWB-VT.


EWB-UVM is a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA (our national headquarters), a non-profit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life. This partnership involves the implementation of sustainable engineering projects, while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students. For more information, contact Abby Franklin (President) at