December 21, 2021

Inspiration for the Future of Engineering for Good: Highlights from Impact.Engineered 2021

Early comers to the virtual Impact.Engineered on December 2nd, 2021, witnessed a rarity in our lines of work, the merging of poetry with engineering and technological innovation. The artist Severin Blake opened the event with a thought-provoking performance that hit the right creative notes for a celebration of ingenuity. More than 600 people from 68 countries registered to hear from experts, innovators and “pragmatic optimists” working in engineering for good. Together, the online community reflected on the work of which we’re all a part, solving the greatest challenges of our time.

This is a snapshot of the event, introducing the award winners and highlights. See a playlist of IE2021 video clips for an in-depth look.

Impact.Engineered 2021 playlist

Austin Alexander’s love for toilets

“I found that I had a deep love for toilets,” Austin Alexander said in her keynote address to Impact.Engineered, explaining her decision to become an engineer. “And it was early in high school that I realized the immense impact that safe sanitation has on elevating individuals and communities out of poverty,” she says.

Ms. Alexander is the Vice President of Sustainability and Social Impact at Xylem, the global water technology company. She offered views on the importance of engineering, water and sanitation technology and her company’s role in global development. See the presentation below.

Then read Five Questions for Austin Alexander, Xylem’s VP of Social Impact

Introducing Idea Lab

With the addition of the Idea Lab incubator, Engineering for Change and our umbrella organization, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, will support social entrepreneurs in developing their social impact concepts. The technologies admitted into the incubator will be tangible products and “sweaty startup” services, the products and business models that can be called “hardware” as opposed to software. Idea Lab welcomes products in the pre-prototype stage, filling the pipeline for future participants of ASME ISHOW, the international accelerator of hardware-led social innovation that has enabled 180 startups from 30 countries to meet basic needs in underserved communities worldwide. The 2021 ISHOW cohort exhibited their innovations in the Impact.Engineered virtual Tech Gallery.

Keith Roe, former president of ASME and chair of the philanthropy committee, announced the launch of Idea Lab and, with his wife Elizabeth “Brownie” Roe, donated (USD) $100,000 to the program. They invite others to join them in investing in Idea Lab, “so life changing innovations don’t get stalled on the drawing board,” Mr. Roe says.

Applications will open in April 2022. Learn more at

This is Kathleen Lobb, Executive Director of Philanthropy at ASME Foundation introducing Keith Roe, and Mr. Roe’s remarks on the launch of Idea Lab.

Field Insights

E4C fellows and partners shared their “field insights,” first-hand accounts of experiences and lessons learned. The event included remarks by Kathleen Knight, Executive Director of Siegel Family Endowment, which pledged $100,000 to fund a cohort of five engineering fellows in 2022 and conduct a longitudinal impact evaluation of the program.

Apply now to the 2022 E4C Fellowship

And the winner is…

Impact.Engineered celebrates the spectrum of our community of innovators who are each shaping the future of global development in their ways. We honor their work with these awards, recognizing the established international organizations with deep impact in global development, as well as the ventures taking first steps in a journey to launch new products that improve lives in low-resource settings.

Impact Driver Award

John Wain first came into contact with Autodesk Foundation in 2016 when he approached the foundation with a request for software licenses. Mr. Wain, the Senior Shelter Cluster Coordination Officer at UNHCR, sought tools for engineers and architects he works with who are designing emergency shelter for underserved communities. He was surprised at the generosity of the foundation, he said, which has issued hundreds of licenses to date, worth millions of US dollars.

“The Autodesk Foundation has a history of patient investment and visionary programs supporting diverse organizations that work on the front lines of social impact,” Mr. Wain said annnouncing the foundation as the winner of the Impact Driver Award. The award recognizes organizations that understand the impact of technology-based solutions and are committed to working to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Joe Speicher Executive Director of Autodesk Foundation, accepted the award. These are their comments.

Woman Champion: Powering Impact

Each year we offer an award to recognize the achievement of women working in engineering and technology with the disclaimer that we’re hoping for the day when such a thing won’t be notable. That day is approaching as women make strides in technical sectors around the world. This award recognizes the women at the forefront of technology for good. By putting a spotlight on leaders committed to engineering global development, we reaffirm Engineering for Change’s commitment to achieving gender equality in the social sector.

We presented the Woman Champion: Powering Impact Award to one of those extraordinary women, Dr. Carol Dahl, Executive Director of The Lemelson Foundation.

Carlotta M. Arthur Arthur, Director of the Clare Boothe Luce Program for Women in STEM at The Henry Luce Foundation introduced the award and Dr. Dahl. These are their remarks.

Ecosystem Builder

Bahaa Eddine Sarroukh, Innovation Lead of the Philips Foundation, is the winner of the Ecosystem Builder award. Mr. Sarroukh also serves as Senior Advisor on Innovation and Technology to the United Nations Development Programme in Kenya. Dr. Beatrice Murage, Senior Manager of Global Sustainability at Philips, presented this award that celebrates those who lay the foundation for growth. These are their comments.

Academic Ally Award

Pennsylvania State College of Engineering collaborates on research and knowledge-sharing projects with Engineering for Change, demonstrating a commitment to social innovation with meaningful programs and a supportive faculty. We recognized Penn State as an Academic Ally with this award that acknowledges the role that partnerships play in the future of engineering, and the next generation of leaders. The latest Impact Project between E4C and Penn State assesses the barriers to flood resilience solutions for housing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Kendra Sharp, head of the National Science Foundation’s Office of International Science and Engineering, presented the award to Dr. Justin Schwartz, the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering at Penn State, and Esther Adhiambo Obonyo, Associate Professor of Engineering and Director of the Global Building Network. These are their remarks.

Change Maker Award

You had the chance to select this year’s Change Maker Award winner with your vote, and the community chose Curabit. The startup’s approach to mental health through virtual reality technology has the potential to improve treatment and disrupt the industry. Here’s their pitch.

Learn more about Curabit at their site: And see all of the Change Maker Award nominees at

See the Impact.Engineered 2021 playlist

If there is a silver lining around these past two years living with a pandemic, it may be the leap to online gatherings. Impact.Engineered 2021 was entirely virtual. By shifting away from in-person conventions we may have reduce the event’s carbon footprint by 94 percent. And every inspiring talk is now preserved in video form, nearly the same as seeing it live. Have a look at our IE 2021 playlist for the presentations and speeches from leading voices in technology for global development.

Impact.Engineered 2021 playlist

Impact.Engineered is made possible by sponsors and partners including The ASME Foundation, The Resolution Project, Siemens Stiftung, and Wingu.

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