This summer, students from the University of Missouri-Rolla will use their passion for engineering to show their compassion for residents in two tiny villages in Bolivia and Guatemala.
Two groups from UMR’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student chapter will leave in May for repeat visits to Inka Katurapi, Bolivia, located deep in the Andes mountains, and Jerez, Guatemala, located about a mile from the El Salvador border. The students hope to pick up from where they left last year by installing a latrine system for the high school in Inka Katurapi and helping homeowners rebuild their two-room dwellings in Jerez.
“For me, EWB shows you how much you can do with an engineering background,” says Jake Midkiff of Farmington, Mo., a senior in geological engineering. “It’s very rewarding. When you go to wonderful places like Inka Katurapi, it changes the way you look at things. The residents work so hard for what they have and it’s amazing how happy they are. It really puts life into perspective.”
Inka Katurapi, a tiny village of roughly 80 families, draws nearly 200 people to its high school from as far as five miles away. Since returning from Bolivia last fall, the EWB team has been developing a simple and self-sustaining four-pot latrine system for the school.
The latrines will be built above four concrete block bins. Two latrines will use each bin, with one covered for storage and the other in use. At the top of each bin, a lattice of wood and leaves will separate the waste. Adding eucalyptus leaves or other organic matter after each use will accelerate the composting process.
The latrine system’s design was influenced by several factors, including a cultural one that became apparent during the 2005 visit.
“In the cities in Bolivia, there are regular toilets,” explains Midkiff, who will lead the project in Bolivia. “But in the rural areas, there are just holes in the ground. They don’t think it’s sanitary to sit down on toilet seats, so these holes are just flat on the ground.”
When a major earthquake jolted Central America in January 2001, it left many Guatemalans wondering how they would rebuild their destroyed adobe homes. The answer for some will be found in the hands of UMR students like Kurt Haslag of Loose Creek, Mo., a junior in civil engineering.
The students will work with CONRED (Coordinadora Nacional para la Reduccion de Desastres), the government’s emergency management agency, and engineering students from the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala to help homeowners rebuild their homes.
The simple, two-room dwellings will consist of dirt floors, cinder block walls, and tin roofs. The students will use the products and tools available in the country in order to teach residents how to do it themselves, without outside assistance. For example, the prefabricated cinder blocks will be cut using machetes, which “takes forever” to cut but it’s a tool that’s available, says Haslag, who is leading the project in Guatemala.
“For me, EWB shows you how much you can do with an engineering background. It’s very rewarding."
— Jake Midkiff, a senior in geological engineering
“These projects are partnerships with the communities,” Midkiff says. “I’d love to go back in 10 years and see how the community has improved.”
Sponsors include George Butler and Associates of Kansas City, the Society of American Military Engineers, the UMR Student Union Board, the MSM-UMR Alumni Association, The Benedictine Fathers, Brooksberry & Associates, The Dermatology Center of Rolla, Academy of Civil Engineers, and several individuals. UMR offices are providing financial support as well, including the provost, School of Engineering, and the civil, architectural and environmental engineering department.
Kenneth Berry of URS St. Louis will join the following UMR students and faculty in Bolivia May 15-25:
The following UMR students and faculty will spend May 21-June 4 in Guatemala: