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Workshop at EMI Uganda

Engineers at play

Behind the scenes with EMI Uganda’s R&D team

Believe it or not, this is a picture of the controlled chaos of a creative technical work. For the last five years, R&D engineers at EMI Uganda have been at play on a number of unique problems. We went behind the scenes to learn more and meet the team.

They were occupied with a curious blue box...

Blue box

Recently the R&D team has been working on evaluating a water purification box invented by EMI Volunteer Engineer Paul Berg. The team is designing a research study in conjunction with a Ugandan university that will field test the system in selected villages.

Hand cranking the blue box

Instead of the common domestic practice of using wood fuel to boil water, the gallon of water inside the Water Box is purified by ultraviolet light. A few minutes of this light - powered by hand-cranking or by a wall outlet - is enough to kill off unwanted bacteria for potable drinking water consumption.

This research study will help guide the development of this appropriate technology product before it goes to market.

And behind unique projects like these, there’s a unique EMI R&D team:

Daniel Propst has roots in East Africa as a missionary kid. He’s been part of R&D since the beginning, and enjoys the challenge of problems at the intersection of missions and engineering.

Daniel Propst

“The individual colors, shapes, and shades of a single puzzle piece hold their own interesting complexities and beauties. How much more complex, beautiful, and satisfying is it to see many unique puzzle pieces, placed in the exact right relation to each other, come together to build a much grander picture? I find each ‘R&D puzzle piece’ fascinating, with its intrinsic beautiful and a micro-lens to see aspects of our Creator. I also enjoy glimpses of our Father combining thousands of unique puzzle pieces, including a few small R&D pieces, in His masterful Kingdom-building work.”

Dr. David Wituszynski came to EMI during PhD studies in Ecological Engineering, ‘pretending’ to be a Civil Engineer. Now, as an EMI fellow, he’s found a community of people to problem-solve with.

Dr. David Wituszynski

“I love the creativity and flexibility that comes from working in R&D: I have such a variety of projects which are all interesting in their own ways, and I’m challenged to come up with unique solutions. The fact is that nobody knows if the solutions will work – my job is to find out! The diversity in projects also means I’m constantly learning with the help of my colleagues. I’m also grateful to work with student teams: recent graduates from Uganda Christian University, and a student team at George Fox University.”

Bruce Arensen was immediately attracted to the work of R&D at EMI. Now, he is using his experience an Aerospace Engineer in the context of solving Majority World design problems.

Bruce Arensen

“R&D excites me because of its long term impact. Much of the work that we do impacts all of EMI’s projects through optimized materials and improved building methods. I love being able to use my mechanical engineering skills in a way that helps people. I’m also excited about bringing the impact of new technology (e.g. 3D printing) to projects that are helping people who need it the most. I really hope the R&D program can raise up local engineers and designers who can take advantage of these new technologies.”

R&D is new to the EMI playbook and aims to influence not only EMI design but the construction industry at large.


This year, EMI is raising funds to enable R&D to grow into a dedicated space of its own—the same place the Construction Workshop began in.

The container facility will be repurposed as R&D’s new home—with offices, labs, and an experimentation floor. It will be a place to explore and be curious: to better understand materials used in EMI projects, to prototype and find weaknesses before implementation, and to share these results with the larger local industry. A place to study things and discover how to do something better.

Prototype solar kiln
R&D at play on a prototype solar kiln. The kiln is being developed to dry raw timber in the EMI Workshop faster and evenly without creating a fire hazard. Photo by Ivan Hue.

More than that, for the R&D team, this creative chaos is a form of worship to God. It’s about discovering the Creator in the things He has made.

They seek to use that knowledge to improve lives, use resources more efficiently, and preserve the creation. Play on, engineers!

EMI is looking for people with a background in electronics or building science to grow the multi-disciplinary R&D team.

And, your investment in Growing Globally helps us outfit R&D experimentation lab!

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