McConnell Goes to Conference to Improve her Helping Skills

Between high school and college, ISE junior Sarah McConnell had the opportunity to live a year abroad in Chile teaching English, building houses, and cooking food for small communities. It was an experience that changed her life. So, when she arrived on campus, it was not long before she discovered the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) program. She knew she had to join EWB as an avenue to pursue her passions for helping others.

Recently, she attended her second EWB National Conference with the goal of improving her skills in helping small communities solve their clean water problems.


The Guatemala Project | Sarah McConnell

From the beginning, McConnell has worked on the Guatemala Water Systems Project Team. Her team traveled to the Guatemalan community of Caserio Panhux to assess how they could best serve the community. “We decided to focus on the water issue in the community by implementing rainwater catchment systems,” explained McConnell. “This would provide water to community members for most of the dry season and throughout the year.”

Today, McConnell is one of the project leads for the Guatemala Water Project and returned to Caserio Panhux to build 14 rainwater catchment systems. “We will travel for another implementation trip this December to install 20 more rainwater catchment systems,” said McConnell. “Looking forward, we have one more implementation trip of 20 systems and a final monitoring trip one year after that.”


McConnell attended her first EWB national conference in 2017 where she learned a lot from other university chapters. “These conferences are great ways to share knowledge as a lot of the work and obstacles to be overcome are similar between communities,” shared McConnell.

So for this year’s conference, she hoped to learn more about the rainwater catchment systems so that they could improve our own systems in Guatemala. “Not only did I learn more about first flush system designs for our rainwater catchment system, but I also got to meet two students and their mentor from the first Guatemalan student chapter,” said McConnell. The NC State students learned much from the Guatemalan students that they will be able to apply to the project.


EWB at NC State

Being a part of EWB has been one of McConnell’s favorite parts about college. It has given her the opportunity to learn so much about engineering and serving communities. “My favorite parts of EWB are the opportunities to travel and impact our Guatemalan community,” confided McConnell. “I love speaking Spanish with our community members, coordinating for travel, and using my engineering problem-solving skills in real-world situations.”

Sound interesting? If you would like to discover more about Engineers Without Borders at NC State, please visit their website,, or contact McConnell at to ask any questions or get involved.