Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 48

GUESTCOLUMN

Dave Cook in 2009 and members of
Yanayo Chico, Bolivia constructing
an earthen water impoundment
structure to supply spring-fed
water for crop irrigation.

Engineering With Soul
BY DAVE COOK

N

ot long ago, I was in a village located 14,000
feet above sea level in the Bolivian Andes.
Their 1970s-vintage water pipeline snaked
from a seep, across a river and down to the
village's water tank. The pipeline was working, but it failed to provide the necessary
volume of water to meet the demand of the
current population.
The young engineering team from the University of Washington-with me as a mentor on behalf of Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA), which has 16,000 volunteers doing work
in 42 countries-couldn't figure out why the pipeline wasn't
performing properly.
Was the pipe just old, broken and leaking? Was someone pirating water? Was there just not the same volume of water coming
from the seep that had been used for hundreds of years?
During that moment, I remember
thinking: "This is hard, and we can't just
solve this with science and engineering
know-how alone. We can't analyze our way
out of this. What do we do?"
In the end, the problem with the pipeline was solved because our team held
community meetings with the villagers.
Dave Cook
During the meetings, we learned several things about the original pipeline. The community elders
remembered a rudimentary water rights treaty; others pointed us
to broken piping; and some showed us poorly managed spigots.
Ultimately, the villagers played a critical role in the design process
for a new pipeline.
That was a lightbulb moment in my career. My team and I saw
firsthand the power of engaging and collaborating with the community to achieve science-backed goals. In other words, we practiced a philosophy I've come to embrace: "Engineering with Soul."
In my science and engineering career, I often see that in our
excitement to solve difficult technical problems that we diminish
the key step of engaging with the people who will use the technologies that get deployed (water, sanitation, structural, agricultural
and energy systems). How to interact beyond the technical was
not routinely emphasized when I was in school or when I started
my career-it took me stumbling outside my corporate and consulting element to truly learn this.
What about tomorrow's engineers and scientists? When we
prize the "thing" over the people who use that "thing," we risk
creating a model of success that our next generation sees as
48

ENGINEERING INC.

SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2017

attainable only through analytical horsepower. We need to show
that community engagement during and, most importantly, after a
project is critical to reshaping how we define success.
MOMENT OF TRUTH

Through my own volunteer work, I've learned that humanitarianism is a reciprocal act-I receive as much as I give.
In Bolivia, it was clear the community had more knowledge
of the pipeline than me (and my advanced degree). Because I
couldn't just out-science the problem, I had to find a different
way to solve the problem. My pathway to making an impact on
the village came from listening and through empathy.
The term "soft skills" is an engineering industry term I
have come to dislike. I've replaced the term with "human
skills." Incorporating human skills can be especially hard
for engineers and scientists who are wired to view the world
through analytical eyes.
Your path to "Engineering with Soul" doesn't have to be mine.
But, whatever you do, take steps to go outside your comfort
zone. I'm encouraged, even bullish, about our nation's science
and engineering future and the successes to come.
Our future success will be founded in engineers, scientists and
technologists who are multiculturalists, sensitive and empathetic.
This group will lead us into a world that on the surface seems
fractured and uncertain, but at the community level is where this
group excels.
As scientists and engineers, we need to do more, be more and say
more within the communities in which we participate and practice
"Engineering with Soul" here in the U.S. and around the world. n
Dave Cook, LG, CPG, is a principal geologist at Aspect Consulting,
an environmental, earth science and engineering company based in
Seattle, and has been involved with Engineers Without Borders USA
since 2004. He has served in many roles including Seattle Professionals
Chapter president, board of directors and 2016 national president.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Engineering Inc - September/October 2017

Engineering Inc - September/october 2017
Contents
From Acec to You
Market Watch
Legislative Action
Eye on The Storm
Boost Profits, Reduce Loss
Innovations in Airport Design
Future Looks Bright for Vr
The Legend of Gridlock Sam
Focus on Philanthropy
Guest Column
Mergers and Acquisitions
Members in the News
Business Insights
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Intro
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Engineering Inc - September/october 2017
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Cover2
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Contents
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 2
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 3
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - From Acec to You
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 5
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Market Watch
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 7
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Legislative Action
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 9
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Eye on The Storm
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 11
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 12
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 13
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 14
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 15
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 16
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 17
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Boost Profits, Reduce Loss
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 19
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 20
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 21
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 22
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Innovations in Airport Design
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 24
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 25
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 26
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 27
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 28
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 29
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Future Looks Bright for Vr
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 31
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 32
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 33
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 34
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 35
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 36
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 37
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - The Legend of Gridlock Sam
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 39
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 40
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 41
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Focus on Philanthropy
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 43
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 44
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 45
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 46
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 47
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Guest Column
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 49
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Mergers and Acquisitions
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 51
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 52
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Members in the News
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 54
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - 55
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Business Insights
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Cover3
Engineering Inc - September/October 2017 - Cover4
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