By David McLain
A Baylor engineering professor and Mission Waco are partnering to form Six Eight Technologies, a new program of Mission Waco-Mission World that will offer training and opportunities for people who want to serve in a technical capacity in developing countries.
The program, approved by the Mission Waco board of directors on Sept. 13, will specifically target recent graduates from Baylor, McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical Institute with degrees that involve “hands-on skills,” including engineering students, carpenters, plumbers and electricians, said Brian Thomas, the program director.
Thomas is also a senior lecturer and assistant chair of the electrical and computer engineering department.
Six Eight Technologies training will focus on clean water and energy. Thomas said they will specifically focus on water well drilling, water pump repair, water purification, solar electricity, small wind power, small hydro-electric generator systems and bio gas.
“We’ve been aware of Brian and his work for a long time,” said Bruce Brown, financial director for Mission Waco. “We work in 3rd world countries a lot, specifically Haiti, India and Mexico. What he’s doing plays into what Mission Waco is.”
Thomas presented the Six Eight Technologies program to the Mission Waco program committee on Sept. 10. The program committee, which includes three active board members, must approve the petition for a new program before it can be submitted to the Mission Waco board of directors. Three days after approval from the program committee, on Sept. 13, Thomas gave his presentation to the board of directors.
Brown said the board was impressed with Thomas’ experience training students to work in developing countries. Thomas serves as the faculty adviser for the student organization Engineers with a Mission, an organization that “exists to educate and motivate engineering students regarding the use of culturally and economically appropriate technologies to assist the global poor in the name of Christ,” according to the organization’s website.
Brown said Mission Waco is excited to have a program run by a skilled engineer, in order to help in places that have materials to begin water purification, but no knowledge of how to operate the machinery.
“Brian has a lot of knowledge on water purification,” Brown said. “We’ve talked a lot about how some organizations have dropped off water purification kits and no training.”
Brown said he expects Six Eight Technologies to be beneficial for current Mission Waco ventures as well as for the students involved in the program. Nigerian native Oby Akinbule graduated in August from the Baylor School of Engineering and Computer Science and will be the first student to go through the program. Akinbule transferred to Baylor when she heard about Engineers with a Mission from a friend.
“I wanted to do engineering missions even before college,” Akinbule said. “I grew up in Nigeria where we don’t have constant electricity. It would be great to take that to a village that doesn’t have that.” Akinbule, who was involved with Engineers with a Mission, said she is excited to combine the experience of both Mission Waco and Thomas.
“I think it’s great that Mission Waco is willing to partner with us,” Akinbule said. “Because Mission Waco is a bigger organization, I feel like we’re broadening what we can do.”
Six Eight Technologies will give students the opportunity to gain work experience, grow in maturity and grow spiritually, Brown said. Thomas first began to explore ideas with the director of Mission Waco, Jimmy Dorrell, when the organization invited Dorrell to be the guest speaker at Camp [In]justice, a Engineers with a Mission event held last spring.
In May, Thomas helped Engineers with a Mission build a structure on Fountain Mall to give students a visual of the living conditions of slums and refugee camps.
“Engineers with a Mission wanted to raise awareness of the living conditions of slums and refugee camps because no one made in the image of God should have to live like that,” Thomas said.
“I got to spend more time with him [Dorrell] at that event, and he’s been supportive of what Engineers with a Mission was doing,” Thomas said.
During the program, Dorrell and Thomas spoke about specific ways to help prepare freshly graduated engineers for work in developing countries. Thomas said he and Dorrell met in late August to continue their conversation.
Thomas expressed to Dorrell his hope of creating a nonprofit that would facilitate training and opportunities for recent engineering graduates who want to work overseas in areas struggling with clean water and issues with energy production similar to the areas Thomas raised awareness of through the Camp [In]justice structure.
“We had breakfast at World Cup Café,” Thomas said. “And I was telling him about my desires to help students after they graduate go and serve overseas in places like Haiti.” Dorrell suggested Thomas incorporate his idea as a program under the umbrella of Mission Waco.
“We’re trying to do justice,” Thomas said. “There are a lot of people in the world that live in appalling conditions that are below the dignity of a person made in the image of God. We want to do this in a Christian context.”