Sustainable community: UB club works with funding group to support health care and rehabilitation center

UB Engineers and members of engineers for a sustainable world work together to complete garden as part of build day project

Engineering students and members of ESW work together to build a garden table for residents at the Buffalo Center; Photo credit: Sophie Hopps-Weber

By Peter Murphy

Published May 8, 2018

“Sustainability is more than just the cool technology. It’s about creating a sustainable community where people are interconnected and groups are functioning as a moving system.”
Amelia Veitch, ESW advertising and outreach coordinator
senior, environmental engineering

UB’s Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), recently completed a build-day project to provide a local rehabilitation and nursing community with a wheelchair accessible and eco-friendly garden.

UB ESW, a project-based group in the engineering council at UB, worked with Awesome Buffalo, a chapter of The Awesome Foundation to secure funding for the project, and with the Buffalo Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation (Buffalo Center) to determine a date and location.

“We come up with different ideas, or see different problems in the community, and try to use our engineering knowledge and hands-on ability to design and build solutions,” says Austin Izzo, an environmental engineering junior and newly elected UB ESW president.

The club has developed and installed a solar charging station near Knox Lecture Hall on UB’s North Campus, and regularly uses its solar-powered smoothie cart at different events. The club also builds hydroponics spaces and regularly conducts educational outreach to K-12 students. The garden was the latest in a series of ESW projects aimed at enhancing sustainability in the community, with a focus beyond green technology or renewable energy.

“Sustainability is more than just the cool technology,” says Amelia Veitch, an environmental engineering senior and the advertising/outreach coordinator for ESW, “it’s about creating a sustainable community where people are interconnected and groups are functioning as a moving system.”

The national ESW network took notice of UB-ESW’s projects last year. The national chapter was impressed, and encouraged UB’s club to continue to find projects in the broader Western New York community, according to Izzo, who was responsible for coordinating with the national network and organizing the build-day teams among club members. UB ESW has five teams that work on different projects based on the type; they are: electrical, benches, solar, garden table and irrigation. The Build Day project, born out of a merge between the parks and solar charging projects within UB ESW, required members from each team to work together.

“We heard about the project in October and started brainstorming designs and what we wanted to do,” says Andrea Oaks, a civil engineering senior and a project leader with Veitch on the solar team, “’what kind of community did we want to work with? What kind of project would we design?’ We needed to focus on this in terms of our teams coming together.”

Build Day

UB Engineering students: Andrea Oaks, Austin Reese, Amelia Veitch and Austin Izzo pose with their completed Build Day project

From left to right: Andrea Oaks, Austin Reese, Amelia Veitch and Austin Izzo pose with their completed Build Day project; Photo credit: Sophie Hopps-Weber

On Saturday, April 28, ESW members, and approximately 30 Buffalo Center employees and residents and members of the Buffalo community gathered to construct the eco-friendly, ADA compliant garden table.

“As a whole, the garden is 12 feet long, 4 feet wide, with a maximum height of 8 feet,” says Austin Reese, a chemical engineering sophomore, “all of the tables are 3 feet high, and wheelchair accessible.”

Community members and Buffalo Center employees and residents worked with UB ESW students for two hours before the club finished the project. UB ESW ensured the garden table system could be maintained by Buffalo Center facilities, and designed a few “fail-safes” to ensure the project lasts.

“The computer we’re using has a temperature sensor and if the temperature drops below freezing, there is a valve at the bottom of the barrel that’s able to drain all the water out,” says Reese.

UB ESW built the technology and brought people together to complete this project. “This was a community celebration,” says Izzo, “it’s about the communities at Buffalo Engineering, the Buffalo Center and the city coming together, and it would not have been possible without help from the Awesome Foundation and everyone in the community.