Engineering for Social Impact | Sewanee: The University of the South Undergraduate Application Essay

Of all my childhood memories, only a few are as distinct as hearing the sound of static piercing the air whenever electricity surged into our blackened homes. The piercing wail would rise in a crescendo and die, yielding to the cacophony of household radios and elated cries: “Up NEPA!” However, just as the restoration of power brought joy to families, subsequent blackouts triggered a cycle of accusations. The government was to blame, greedy diesel merchants who undermined the efficiency of the nation’s energy structures were to blame, and NEPA, the Nigerian Electric Power Authority, was indisputably the greatest culprit.

I was reminded of these obstacles as I studied for tests by the light of open oil lamps. My mother was understandably displeased. She threatened to confiscate my textbooks but the promise of empowerment was irresistible. If darkness could not hinder my academic success why did it hinder much of the development of my country? I began to sketch my ‘solutions’ when I could. I conceived ideas such as bio-gas stoves for transitional communities and alcohol sensors in vehicles which would ensure the ignition did not start if the driver’s alcohol level exceeded the legal limit. Thus, my decision to study Engineering…

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