article Spring 2023

ESW: The Art of Designing Sustainable Solutions as a Team

ESW is an entirely student run organization devoted to environmentally relevant projects, hands-on experience, and teamwork. 

What do aquaponics, saving the bees, and solar powered charging stations have in common? If you guessed that they are all pillars of the Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), then you are right! ESW is an industrious and fun-loving student run organization here at UW-Madison. They are a project-based club that applies for their own grants to fund their environmental outreach projects. With 10-20 students consistently attending club meetings, their membership has increased by a factor of four after the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

ESW president, Ben Yang, a senior in civil and environmental engineering, stresses that the student organization gives students a leg up when they apply for future jobs. They primarily accomplish this through firsthand experiences. Yang said, “one main goal we had this year was getting students more hands-on opportunities to develop environmental solutions”. These types of opportunities come from the organization’s environmental projects. They are currently working on three environmental projects, including aquaponics, solar, and bee farms. 

Ben Yang, president of Engineers for a Sustainable World, explaining aquaponics.
Photo by: Hridyesh Tewani.

Elle Lettner, a sophomore board member majoring in environmental engineering, leads the solar project. This project seeks to install charging stations with available Wi-Fi at the Allen Centennial Garden. Her favorite part about this project is “watching other students get really excited about the project is super cool, realizing that there is a bunch of opportunities in renewable energy on campus.” 

Along with being the organization’s president, Yang is also the lead on the bee farm project. This project is looking to help save bees. The Green Fund in the Office of Sustainability funds this project occurring at the Allen Centennial Garden.

As its third project this semester, ESW is working on an aquaponics project that uses fish to grow plants. They intend to put this project into Badger Rock Middle School. When asked what her favorite part of this project was, Aubrey Barthel, a sophomore board member majoring in environmental engineering, raved, “honestly I just really like getting to know the people; they are really fun.”

The most inspiring aspect of ESW is how much the members love collaborating with the other people in the organization. Lettner believes that the success of ESW comes from their members being “more focused on making sure that people were enjoying what was going on rather than having deadlines.” With the many other stressful deadlines that engineering students face daily, having a more laid-back way of using and gaining technical skills is a major draw for students looking to join ESW. 

As Yang reflects about his time in ESW, he concludes, “the main takeaway I have from being in ESW is learning how to communicate with people to do these projects and how to ask for help.” Communication and knowing when to ask for help are critical skills for future jobs and for life. This organization provides these skills to students, along with hands-on projects focused on sustainability. Having such a talented group of people to work with makes ESW an excellent candidate for anyone looking to join a new organization!

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