Yash Bhandari (B.S. ‘22 IEOR) Helps Bring Clean Drinking Water to El Valle de San Francisco, Panama

Engineers Without Borders Panama Project

Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides engineering services to underserved communities in the U.S. and worldwide. At UC Berkeley's EWB-USA chapter, students team up with classmates, learn from mentors, and engage with local communities to increase climate resilience, address pressing infrastructure challenges, and improve people's daily lives.

Fueled by their mission to improve the world, students decide to join IEOR so that they can solve grand challenges to some of the most significant problems in transportation, supply chains, healthcare, energy, robotics, finance, and risk management. It is therefore not surprising that the Berkeley Chapter of Engineers Without Borders attracts IEOR students who want to participate in meaningful ways to ensure that communities all over the world can meet basic needs.

One such student, Yash Bhandari (B.S. ‘22 IEOR), joined EWB during the Spring Semester of his first year at Berkeley. With help from professional mentors, peers, and Panama-based NGO, Footprint Possibilities, Yash participated in the Panama Project, where he helped address the lack of access to basic water and sanitation systems in El Valle de San Francisco, Panama. During the Panama Project, Yash had the opportunity to apply his IEOR knowledge and skills while also gaining hands-on engineering experience.

What was the best part of your time with EWB-USA?
My favorite part was meeting and working with industry mentors and seasoned engineers involved with EWB for many years. With the Panama Project, my focus was on water chlorination and sanitation, which is the process of adding chlorine to drinking water to kill parasites, bacteria, and viruses. I was lucky enough to work collaboratively with strong and helpful mentors in the water chlorination and sanitation industries.

Who was your favorite mentor at EWB?
My favorite mentor was a College of Engineering alum named Ricky. Ricky’s vast experience in water chlorination and water cleansing was crucial to the success of our project. He helped my team understand the parameters, goals, and basic theory of water chlorination. He taught us about free chlorination and total chlorination and about measurement standards. His knowledge and guidance allowed us to effectively test and perform chlorination procedures on the water samples we collected from El Valle de San Francisco, Panama.

What important lessons did you learn from Engineers Without Borders?
The need to be practical. Our Project had many constraints, especially when it came to our budget. It forced my team to innovate and think outside the box to find solutions. For example, in the beginning, my team could only find water test kits for $1200, which was not within our budget. We began merging parts of different kits and finally brought down the cost to $30. I also utilized a lot of project management skills. I was constantly communicating with multiple stakeholders while also innovating and ideating.

Four years at IEOR and multiple summer internships instilled Yash with a love of crunching numbers and an appreciation for using mathematical processes to solve problems. After graduating this past May, Yash will soon begin working as Research Analyst for a hedge fund in the Bay Area.