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Gita Balakrishnan July 01, 2019
In some occasions, it takes stepping out of the classroom —and stepping across the globe— for learning to truly begin. 

Sometimes, it is only by stepping out of the classroom that learning can begin.

Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service-Learning was created in 2001 by engineering students who were interested in using engineering skills and applying them to real-world, real-problem solutions to developing countries.

Led by Christine Vehar Jutte ’02, Bob Hawley ’02, Jason Huart ’02 and Garret Prom ’01, ETHOS started as learning experiences in just one country — India. It now includes immersion experiences in 20 countries with more than 400 students developing projects that produce meaningful results for communities across the world.

One example belongs to Alyssa Ramsey ’14, who traveled to Buea, Cameroon, to work on household biosand filters. These rural communities had no running water or electricity and most people were using contaminated water from a nearby stream.

“We installed these household filters to provide clean drinking water and worked with the local community to construct them. It was really a great learning experience for me to not only see the project design and development process but to also be immersed in a different culture and way

of doing things,” Ramsey said.

Olivia Bayer ’18 headed to Bolivia and worked with an organization called CECAM. Her project was to design and build a bicimaquina. The device was a completely pedal-driven machine that would power both a blender and mixer, providing impoverished families living without adequate electricity a way to prepare food or washcloths.

But the advantages were not just for the villagers.

“Every person, every culture has value,” Bayer learned. “Working and living alongside those of a different culture gave me such exposure to life outside of the Western world. I don’t think there are many better ways to truly walk in someone’s shoes. It continues to shape how I see the world and the relationships that I build to this day.”

Kyle Lowry ’13, who also traveled to Bolivia, echoed the sentiment.

“ETHOS definitely has a way of giving you a new perspective,” he said. “Dayton is a very tiny part of the world and getting to experience a place and a way of life that are vastly different, but similar in many ways, give you a unique appreciation for both the things you’re used to at home and the things the rest of the world has to offer.”