Engineers Without Borders to host annual Water Cycle fundraiser March 23 at Martin Dam

Published: Feb 8, 2024 1:00 PM

By Joe McAdory

Auburn Engineering students will continue to improve terrain-challenged water and irrigation systems for villagers in Bolivia and Guatemala this summer, but they need your help.

Engineers Without Borders (EWB), the student service organization that revitalizes infrastructure systems abroad each year, is raising funds to purchase materials – PVC, concrete, paint, rebar, etc. — necessary to complete projects that provide a steady flow of water to third-world communities. Travel expenses, however, are funded mostly by the volunteer students.

How much is needed? About $150,000.

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“We’re a non-profit service organization dedicated to helping those who aren’t as fortunate,” said Emily Skowronek, a senior in mechanical engineering and EWB fundraising chair, who spent two weeks working last summer on-site in Saloj, Guatemala. “Funds raised go directly toward construction materials, and we will also hire plumbers, masons and other laborers to help with the work. We do a ton of work on-site and have already done a ton of work here (at Auburn) designing the projects.”

Though corporate sponsors and individual donations go a long way in helping to fund the annual projects, EWB’s largest annual fundraiser is Water Cycle, an all-day festival March 23 at Martin Dam in Tallapoosa County with multiple bicycle races through Alabama countryside. Following the race, participants and their families can celebrate with live music and games at “Dam Jam.” Lunch will be available.

Water Cycle kicks off at 8 a.m. with the 60-mile loop ($65) to near Loachapoka and back. The 30-mile race ($65) begins at 9 a.m., and the 15-mile fun ride ($30) at 10 a.m., where e-bikes are welcome. T-shirts and post-race meals are included in rider registration. Click here for more detailed event information, including routes and registration information.

Top finishers will be awarded specially crafted, 3-D trophies designed inside the college’s Makerspace.

“A couple of things we’ll be adding this year that we didn’t have last year is riders can visit mechanic stations — where tools will be provided — at the main starting line and one of the main aid stations,” said Christian Brodbeck, EWB faculty advisor and director of research operations at the college. “We’re adding a second sag wagon (event support vehicle) to pick up riders if they break down, fall, or just run out of juice, and three aid stations because the elevation changes on these courses can be very challenging. We’ll have more food options at the start – sandwiches, fruit, crackers – anything that a biker might need — and more hydration and energy options.”

Volunteers from Auburn Outdoors, under the umbrella of Auburn University Campus Recreation, will be on-hand to help repair bicycles, if needed. Brodbeck also noted that improved, “more visible,” route signage will help cyclists better navigate their journeys.

Brodbeck said the organization is particularly grateful for corporate sponsors Brasfield & Gorrie, Scott Bridge, Russell Lands and Navigation Electronics and look forward to welcoming more sponsors. He also wanted to offer a special “thank you” to Auburn Outdoors, Trek Bikes, James Bros. Bikes and One Bike Coffee for their support.

Brodbeck added that though EWB’s contributions in faraway lands are immeasurable, the organization also provides an educational component for students.

“Students carry these projects literally from beginning to end,” he said. “When they go in for a job interview, having served here provides confidence. They can say, ‘I did this from start to finish,’ and they can talk about the nuts and bolts of what they did.”

Gavin Valentine, a sophomore in aerospace engineering, relishes the thought of ideations that become reality, and ultimately help others.

“I am able to say, ‘This is where it started… In a classroom in Auburn, Alabama,’” said Valentine, EWB’s incoming fundraising chair. “We began with maybe 20 people talking about the community we're going to help, then after months of planning and building, we go out there and see the actual community — the people — we’ve been planning to help. You feel their gratitude. That's one thing I talk about in my interviews... the whole design process.”

Skowronek said that EWB is “The best thing I’ve ever done at Auburn.”

“I consider when I move on from here (Auburn) and think about how I will be able to donate in other ways,” she said. “It makes me happy that Gavin is taking over fundraising because I'm seeing another year of students who are so willing to help and are so passionate about this organization. You really see that in Water Cycle, too, because so much planning goes into this fundraiser. We’ve had so many people help by volunteering — getting up at 5 in the morning to work at the aid stations. We do this because we care about this organization.”

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447
Auburn's Engineers Without Borders chapter will continue to improve water and irrigation systems for villagers in Bolivia and Guatemala this summer.

Auburn's Engineers Without Borders chapter will continue to improve water and irrigation systems for villagers in Bolivia and Guatemala this summer.

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