Engineers Without Borders drip irrigation project kicks up dirt in Camden

Engineers without borders local Camden project aims to install new irrigation systems in three gardens. The team finished the system in the first site in early March. -Photo courtesy of Carol Butler

Engineers Without Borders’ local Camden project aims to install new irrigation systems in three gardens. The team finished the system in the first site in early March. -Photo courtesy of Carol Butler


Last semester, Engineers Without Borders began helping the Camden community lay roots in a local project — literally.

Colloquially referred to as the Camden drip irrigation project, the team is helping the Camden Foundation for Environmental Transformation with the irrigation of three gardens in the Waterfront South section of Camden.

The gardens existed before the group came to the site and had been looked after previously, but the water wasn’t working effectively.

“They tried to do irrigation and it didn’t work out because when we tried to run it, it failed,” said Carol Butler, a sophomore chemical engineer and local project lead for EWB.

The club partners with communities to help them with different solutions to their problems.

“I see [EWB] as a really cool way to utilize my engineering skills, which is something I really enjoy, and to help people, which is also something I really enjoy,” said EWB president and junior mechanical engineer Bethany Brigandi.

The team consists entirely of sophomores and mostly chemical engineers with one electrical and computer engineer. They all have no fear of getting their hands dirty.

“We get really dirty — I have an outfit specified for Camden,” Butler said. “I have my irrigation pants, sweatshirt, shoes [and] socks.”

The land is part of the CFET’s gardens and the EWB’s project is just a small part of what the larger organization oversees.

“The goal is to deliver water to all gardens efficiently so that water isn’t wasted and to further the CFET’s goal to further their urban gardening mission,” Butler said.

The idea for the project sprouted in October but the project first kicked up the dirt in November.

“This is just one of the local projects,” Butler said. “We have an international project, too. The local project is something we decided to do as a club to get more freshmen involved because they usually can’t travel internationally.”

Andrea McFarland, the previous president, first laid roots in the idea of the project last semester.

“Last year our president implemented these local projects,” Brigandi said. “It gets more people involved, much closer, and there’s not a travel expense.”

Butler said her team consists of about six individuals working on the garden at a time.

In this neighborhood, there are three gardens that needed irrigation systems installed, all within a five-block radius.

Factors like materials and weather are significant influences on the project, but still the team has found a way to make a lot of headway.

“If it’s really cold out, we worked in the greenhouse,” Butler said. “We’ve been really lucky when we worked outside it actually wasn’t that bad out. There have been Saturdays because of weather that we had to cancel but we try to go every Saturday.”

Brigandi spoke about being proud of her members and e-board because they took a lot of initiative in the project.

“The one greenhouse, they basically gutted and re-did it all,” Brigandi said. “I know I don’t have to worry or be on top of [Butler], she’s taken it and run with it. Her and Eric Guidarelli, her co-lead, they’re great — they’re doing a lot for it. I know that I can trust them to get the job done.”

These gardens provide income at farmers’ stands as well as a safe place for the community to grow crops and learn about gardening, and the team completed their first task in early March.

“We’re done with the first site,” Butler said. “We still have to complete the other two. We already have the schematics of what we’re going to do but we implement them one at a time.”

However, the project hasn’t gone without surprises.

“We were digging up the first site, and there was a hose about half a foot under the ground rolled up with roots growing over it, and right next to where we were digging there was a bullet in the dirt,” Butler said. “I called the Rowan police once I brought it back.”

Butler herself is looking to get more involved with the club and other projects.

“I’m in the process for looking for new local projects for someone younger to head up,” Butler said. “I want to be on the international project as my clinic project for engineering my junior year.”

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