Failure Forum 2018

The Idea

While every EWB chapter is working hard to do the best for their partner communities, mistakes along the way are inevitable. Our chapter earnestly believes that the best way to foster successful projects is to encourage honest dialogue and create spaces in which everyone feels comfortable admitting to failures small and large, and takes the time to learn from those mistakes.

This belief led to the conception of The Failure Forum, which will take place on April 7th of 2018. This student-lead conference is dedicated to the candid discussion of failure in the context of EWB projects and the lessons that can be shared and learned when things go wrong. It aims to encourage student and professional engineers to speak up about a reality that sometimes seems taboo in the engineering service world. The event will be from approximately 12-7pm at Harvard University and will be followed by an informal chapter social.


Who: YOU!

What: A failure-themed EWB conference hosted by the Harvard student chapter

Where: Harvard University's Maxwell-Dworkin Building, 33 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

When: Saturday, April 7th, 2018 from noon - 7pm

Why: To promote a culture where it's acceptable to talk about and learn from failure

How: Register here! It costs $20 per person but there is discounted $15 pp registration until March 17th.

Questions? Email


Lunch will not be provided. Pizza dinner will be served at the chapter social in the Maxwell-Dworkin Ground Floor Lobby at the conclusion of the conference. Light refreshments will be served throughout the day.


Parking: There are reservable parking spaces (near Maxwell Dworkin Building, 33 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA 02138) in the SEAS parking lot between Pierce Hall and the Harvard Law School Library, as shown below in red. This parking lot can only be accessed from Oxford Street; the entrance is marked by the blue star. You can purchase parking permits here for $8/day. The necessary department is the “School of Engineering and Applied Science” and the code to purchase a parking permit is: 2006. 

If parking runs out, please go to the Northwest Building, located just across the street. There is parking in the basement, with the same permit system as above.



Welcome Panel

Bree Carlson, Harvard Environmental Health and Safety

Christopher Lombardo, Harvard Chapter Faculty Mentor

Nicole Trenchard, Harvard Chapter Project Lead, MA/RI State Representative

Jess Wala, Nitsch Engineering

EWB-USA Speaker

Eric Lundborg, Engineers Without Borders-USA

EWB Project Failure Case Studies

Walt Walker, Philadelphia Professional Chapter, NY State Representative

Heather Pieszala, Hartford Professional Chapter, Pratt & Whitney

Katrina Haidari and Samantha Schloder, University of Pittsburgh Chapter

Building a Failure Community

Harvard Chapter

Learning and Leading Through Failure

Alain Lempereur, University of Geneva, Brandeis University, Harvard Program on Negotiation

Kelly McQueeney and Bree Carlson, Harvard Environmental Health and Safety

Miriam Tuchman, Sustainable Healthcare for Haiti, Inc

Dave and Kayla Kurtz, Electric Boat, University of Rhode Island Chapter, CT State Representative

Building Failure Resiliency

Bill Van Schalkwyk, Harvard Environmental Health and Safety

James Hylko, JJE LLC

Wally Higgins, Harvard John A. Paulson SEAS


Dave Sacco, Yale Chapter Mentor and ICP reviewer


Building Codes: MD = Maxwell-Dworkin, NW = Northwest Science Building

Time Activity Title Speakers Room
12-12:30pm Welcome Panel Intro to the Failure Forum Bree Carlson, Chris Lombardo, Nicole Trenchard, Jess Wala MD G115
12:30-1:15pm EWB-USA's Perspective on Failure PMEL is Not a Four Letter Word Eric Lundborg MD G115
1:15-1:25pm Break
1:25-2:10pm EWB Project Failure Case Studies Failure Prevention in the Project Selection Process
Lessons Learned from a Philippines Water Project
Brazil Water/Filtration Project Breakdown
Heather Pieszala

Walt Walker

Katrina Haidari & Samantha Schloder
2:10-2:20pm Break
2:20-3:10pm Meet and Mingle Building a Failure Community MD G115
3:10-3:20pm Break
3:20-4:20pm Leading and Learning Through Failure How Humanitarians Build a Case for Responsible Negotiating
How Do You Know What You Don't Know
Don't Fall in Love with Your Project, Fall in Love with Your Work
Systematic Approach to Leadership
Alain Lempereur

Kelly McQueeney & Bree Carlson
Miriam Tuchman

Dave & Kayla Kurtz
4:20-4:30pm Break
4:30-5:30pm Building Failure Resiliency Operational Biases That Screw Up Our Decision Making
Learning from Failures
Preparing Technical Specialists for Managerial/Leadership Responsibilities
Bill VanSchalkwyk

Wally Higgins
Jim Hylko
5:30-5:40pm Break
5:40-6:20pm Wrap-Up Why We Have To Talk About Failure Dave Sacco MD G115
6:20pm onwards Pizza Dinner Chapter Social MD Ground Floor Lobby


We would like to give a huge thank you to our sponsors. This conference would not be possible without them