Matt Lubas: Engineering Community Development Meet Matt Lubas ’18, an engineer who spends his spare time building communities.
“The projects in Fries represent not only my interests, but also the mission of the club: employing engineering solutions to create a positive impact on developing communities.”
From the moment I got to W&L, I knew I wanted to get involved with Engineering Community Development (ECD, formerly Engineers Without Borders). I love to travel, and I wanted to incorporate my passions for engineering and Spanish together. During my first year, I participated in as many ECD events as possible, building a bio-sand water filtration unit near campus garden, teaching kids how to make concrete at the Virginia Science Festival in town, and manning the sign-up table for the Chipotle Fundraiser.
From participating, I gained some hard skills, such as the ability to make concrete, woodworking, and skills with tools. However, more powerful has been the development of my soft skills: community engagement, empathy, communication, and an interest in creating sustainable projects. Outside of the club, I enjoyed thinking critically about poverty-related issues, which led to declaring a poverty studies minor, and learning about how companies, nonprofits, and startups are using engineering to improve people’s quality of life.
During my Sophomore Reading Days in 2015, I led a group of students to work in the Community Center in Fries, Virginia. Located two and half hours from Lexington, the small town of about 600 people wanted to promote its sense of community through the town Community Center. Through talking with the Community Center director and volunteers, we learned about the town’s needs and worked inside the theater, removing old siding and tarps on the walls. When we came back a year later, it was heartwarming to see that the theater had continued to develop and was being used for community bluegrass jam sessions.
This year, we returned to Fries for another Reading Days weekend to build up part of the dam for the water treatment center. We mixed and laid mortar and local rocks on the dam, which has helped improve the pressure and water flow to the water treatment center. We also helped out at the concession stand during the kids’ football game and painted the inside of the dining hall for a community center. These trips have allowed me to discover things about myself: my tendency to lead, my grounded enthusiasm, and my passion and joy for engaging with people to help them achieve their goals.
The projects in Fries represent not only my interests, but also the mission of the club: employing engineering solutions to create a positive impact on developing communities. As I came into my junior year as co-president of ECD, I wanted to expand the focus of our club. The club has always been very focused on water and sanitation issues, but I have been trying to expand the projects and impact to Biomedical Engineering through an Engineering World Health partnership and a Solar Sterilization Unit design project. I wanted all students to realize that they could have a tangible impact, no matter their field of interest.
I am looking into international development engineering as a vocation, and it is something I hope my engagement in ECD will prepare me for. I hope to impact W&L students through sharing my passion for community development and engagement, and I want to promote students — especially in engineering — towards futures that improve the lives of those in need locally and internationally.