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What is Humanitarian Engineering?

“Engineering” can be defined as “the use of science and mathematics to invent, create, design, develop, or improve technologies.” 
Casa de Maria y el Niño Orphanage, Medellín, Colombia, ECOS project for establishing a computer lab and training, Passino, Finke, Quijano, plus local university help (UPB), July 2004.

“Technology” is often thought of simply as a “tool” that extends human capability (e.g. from hammers to the internet).

“Humanitarian” has been defined as “concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare” (New Oxford American Dictionary), which is quite a bit broader than typical interpretations of this word (e.g., it does not just apply to disasters or international work, but local/domestic work). We define "welfare" via social justice.

"Social Justice" can be defined as “standards for, and a view on how to promote via human interactions, human dignity and human fulfillment for all of humanity.” Central to social justice is helping people have dignity, rights, and fulfillment. 

Humanitarian engineering is the creation of technologies that help people


Humanitarian Technologies: Examples of humanitarian technologies for developing communities include affordable:

  • Technologies for clean water and sanitation
  • Non-polluting lighting, heating, and cooking methods
  • Off-grid electricity generation (e.g., solar or bicycle)
  • Agricultural technologies and methods (e.g., aquaponics or irrigation)
  • Healthcare technologies
  • Shelters

and many others, including technologies for international STEM education.