When I was 17 years old, I went on a mission’s trip to southern California. My team crossed the border into Mexico where we spent three days in Tijuana. We lived in an impoverished neighborhood and built a small, simple, 12 by 12 feet shack that would serve as a home for a small family. The sights and smells of the life conditions of this experience became a forever-part of me. I left Mexico shifted, unable to shed the day-to-day realities of millions of people who live in poverty around the world.
Desiring to spend my life helping the poor, I enrolled as a student at Messiah College, due to its strong emphasis on humanitarian engineering. During my time in college, I worked as an intern with Food for the Hungry and traveled twice to Guatemala. While with Food for the Hungry, I researched and tested an optimized cook stove design – engineer talk for a practical solution, one that helped reduce the inhalation of harmful smoke from open air cooking.
I graduated with my Bachelors degree in mechanical engineering and the same year, joined DePuySynthes Joint Reconstruction. Four years later, I was asked to join the board of directors for Water For Good that works in the Central African Republic (CAR). I served faithfully for nine years, and during my trips to the CAR became increasingly aware of significant humanitarian needs. I returned to the US after one of my trips with a mission to partner with other like-minded engineers inspired to find real solutions. That determination developed into co-leading a team of engineers to create a deep well water pump and co-founding Design Outreach.
There’s a story in the Bible about an impoverished people group, enslaved and weary. God sent a man to lead them out of that place into another one, one to call home. But the story didn’t end there. This people, once poor, were instructed to take care of those around them, to use what they’d been given to give back. Leviticus 25 says that “if one of your brothers becomes indigent and cannot support himself, help him… out of reverence for your God help your brother to continue to live with you… I am your God who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan…” They had been blessed to bless.
For me, it’s that simple. Use what I see, what I know, what I have been given to wield and provide aid to those in need.
DO’s President, Abe Wright, continues his work as a Staff Engineer for DePuySynthes, where he is working with a team that’s improving the lives of people suffering from knee arthritis. Abe’s work has contributed to many innovations and he’s named as inventor on 21 granted US patents. For his efforts and contributions, Abe was chosen to receive DePuy’s first ever Never Stop Moving® in 2011. Abe holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Messiah College and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Denver.
Abe and his wife Lisa live in Winona Lake, IN, with their three children. They are actively involved in their church and desire to show God’s love to a hurting world. They enjoy all-things outdoors and can often be found working in their garden or hiking in the woods.
I lived my whole life in Ohio, and other than Canada, never left the country. After graduating from The Ohio State University (OSU) in mechanical engineering, I began my career at Battelle, a large research and development company, specializing in machine and product design. My work paid the bills, and I was thankful, but I knew I had not yet found my calling in life.
Shortly before our wedding, I traveled to Central Asia with my fiancé on a mission’s trip. I was humbled by the living conditions I saw there. As an engineer, I recall and was intrigued by how adept the people there were at repurposing items out of necessity. Later I would find this true throughout many countries during my travels to Central America, South America, and Africa. In Central Asia, I saw an old car, tipped on its side, used as a retaining wall. I carried that image with me as I returned to my desk in Ohio – where I began to dream of creating everyday products that would benefit those who needed them the most.
I started looking for an organization working in the developing world where I could volunteer my engineering skills, and met Jim Hocking from Water For Good, a non-profit organization drilling water wells in Africa. Of the few hand pumps that had been established, many were broken and in need of repair. Jim asked me to help find replacement parts to these pumps – parts that were no longer being manufactured. As I started asking questions, I realized that the water problem in Africa was much bigger than finding replacement parts. I wanted to do something more and, along with a handful of others, began designing a new water pump.
Jim introduced me to Abe Wright, who was also helping Water For Good with the same problem. Abe and I joined forces to work on the pump, and found ourselves coordinating a large group of volunteers, all working with the same purpose and mission to provide humanitarian relief, and so Design Outreach was born.
The Gospel of Luke tells a story about a two men who, one after the other, passed by a man in desperate need on the side of the road. They saw the man hurting, but did nothing. A third man passed by and couldn’t un-see what he saw. He was changed. So he changed his plans, picked up the man and took care of him.
I want to be that third man. The man who saw the need of the hurting and did something about it.
DO’s CEO Greg Bixler, Ph.D., P.E. is a Professional Engineer in the state of Ohio and holds degrees in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University (OSU). Greg teaches engineering courses at OSU including scholars humanitarian engineering sections. Greg has served as a professional advisor to the OSU engineering service learning program and Engineers Without Borders student chapter. He has presented on novel humanitarian engineering design principles at the inaugural IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference and has published relevant articles in the IEEE Explore and International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering.
Greg, his wife Mary Hannah and their three children, are active in their church and enjoy downhill skiing, hiking, and traveling.