The student chapter of Engineers Without Borders at Missouri University of Science and Technology plans to make four trips this summer to communities in Bolivia, Honduras and Guatemala. The student-led teams will continue their efforts to provide sanitation and sustainable drinking water systems to these remote villages.
A dozen students will leave before Memorial Day and spend 15 days in Los Eucaliptos, Bolivia, a poor, rural community without a sustainable water supply or sanitation system. During the country’s dry season, residents have no nearby water sources and have to purchase the water they need to survive. During the rainy season, the nearby river becomes contaminated with bacteria from animal waste and pesticides.
During previous trips, the EWB chapter built a 5,000-gallon ferrocement water tank, installed nearly 4,000 feet of water distribution pipe, and built an erosion control system to protect the community’s riverbank from erosion.
This year’s team, lead by Sean Schmidt of Lake Saint Louis, Mo., a graduate student in engineering management, will build a well house, add to the erosion control system and oversee the drilling of an 80-meter deep well. Schmidt earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Missouri S&T in 2009.
An 11-member S&T team will travel to Nahualate, Guatemala, from July 11-22, where the group will build a 300-foot well, a 35-foot water tower, and install more than 6 miles of a water distribution system. The $250,000 project will provide water to 1,400 people and is expected to save lives. Ryan Hoff of St. Paul, Mo., a junior in mechanical engineering, is leading the team on its fifth trip to the community. Three students from the University of Missouri-Columbia join the S&T students.
“Two years ago I would never have been able to think I could run a project of this scale,” Hoff says. “I have learned countless things from my work with EWB. I want to help the community help themselves to give them safe water, something I have grown up taking for granted.”
The MU students are pursuing their master of public health degrees and will be focused on educating the community in health issues and monitoring the project’s success.
“They will perform health surveys before and after the completion of the project, measuring how health issues have decreased and the time saved in water collection,” Hoff adds.
Chiara Sulze of St. Louis, a senior in civil and architectural engineering, will lead an 11-member team for a 12-day visit to Tacachia, Bolivia. This will be Sulze’s second trip to the community, which has been visited by S&T’s chapter six times.
“I believe we can really make a difference in this community,” she says. “I’m learning what engineering really entails – identifying problems and then finding feasible solutions.”
In addition to completing the water distribution system in Tacachia, the S&T students will monitor previously installed ram pumps and filters, test their settling tanks, and investigate the possibility of using a well or spring as a water source for the community. They also plan to divert water away from the banks of the riverbed to prevent future erosion.
EWB president Grace Harper of Wentzville, Mo., a senior in geological engineering, has already been to Santiago, Honduras, with the team three times during her college career. Since 2008, students has been working to implement and expand a potable water system to give the 6,000-member community reliable access to clean water. An eight-member student team will travel Aug. 1-9 to Honduras, led by Lindsey Chaffin of Fordland, Mo., a senior in civil engineering. The focus of this year’s trip will be to drill a new well to increase the water supply to the community.
“This has been the most rewarding experience I have had at S&T,” Harper says. “I have learned a great deal about project management, engineering, and another part of the world.”