Bernard Amadei

Ashoka Fellow
Boulder, Colorado, United States
Fellow Since 2009


This profile was prepared when Bernard Amadei was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
By engaging students, professors, and professional engineers in an experiential framework, Bernard is trying to shift the field to focus on truly sustainable engineering. The core of Bernard’s work is to offer rigorous, meaningful opportunities to integrate two things: Learning engineering skills in an applied context, and playing a life-changing role in substantive, sustainable engineering projects in the developing world. Through the engagement of professors and practitioners, sustainable engineering is spreading and changing the way that the engineering profession is both thinking of and educating itself across the country, causing it to become an even more powerful piece of the solution for some of the world’s most pervasive problems, such as poverty, pollution, hunger, and disease.

Bernard is accomplishing this in several related ways. First, in 2002 he created a new strain of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), first by establishing EWB-USA, an organization that not only sent students overseas to do short-term projects in developing countries, but also sought to educate those students more broadly and rigorously about development, and to do “real” engineering—pairing students with professionals to create sustainable, lasting projects, and to train local engineers and students to ensure the long-term success of the project. (EWB projects are the culmination of course study and planning, rather than an internship-type of experience.)

EWB-USA integrates the participation of faculty on over 200 of its 385 chapters. These chapters multiply their impact by igniting the interest of professors to change the curricula to fully embrace the notion of practicing sustainable engineering in their respective universities. Currently, there are 12,000 members in these chapters (USA) of which 45 percent are professional engineers (55 percent students).

Subsequently, Bernard co-founded EBW International, a network of EWBs worldwide who share his vision of students, professionals, and local engineers planning and executing applied engineering projects as a key part of sustainable community development and poverty reduction. These groups are neutral/non-political and affiliation requires a screening process for matching ethics. To date, there are 45 chapters globally affiliated with EWB International.

Third, Bernard created an Engineering for Developing Communities Program at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2004, which has been so successful that it was endowed by the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities in 2009. He is working to make this the gold standard of teaching engineering students in a radically new way about their profession—enabling them to think and work “sustainably,” with an eye toward the whole community they are serving and will spread the teachings through the center’s model for training engineers.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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