One hundred families in southern Bolivia will soon have water and electricity, thanks in part to efforts by students at Missouri University of Science and Technology and a gift from the Monsanto Fund.
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For the past three years, S&T’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders has been working with Habitat for Humanity on a new 100-lot subdivision, named Los Eucaliptos, near Erquis Sud. This year’s work was supported in part by a $40,000 grant by the Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company. The Monsanto Fund also supported the project in 2009.
“Engineers Without Borders provides students with experiences that are just not available either in the classroom or within traditional internships,” says advisor Dr. Rick Stephenson, professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T. “The projects are 3,000 miles away, in a developing country with a different language and culture. In this environment, change is the norm and thinking on your feet is crucial. Where else can students see their training and education actually saving lives? Where else can they manage projects from conception to implementation with budgets in excess of $40,000?”
Habitat for Humanity builds the homes; S&T students are designing and implementing the infrastructure needed for the structures, such as sewage, potable water and electrical lines.
As part of the project, S&T students have designed a water distribution system for the subdivision. This past summer, the students installed 1,600 feet of PVC pipes to take water from a 5,000-gallon water storage tank they built last year. The students also provided funds to bring electricity to the community to power a submersible pump for the system so that water could potentially be pumped automatically up to the storage tank.
“The project is anticipated to have drastic effects on the health of the community members, particularly infants,” says team leader Emily Pasch, a senior in mechanical engineering from Lake Zurich, Ill.
S&T students are also continuing to assess the feasibility of constructing an 800-foot-long pedestrian footbridge across the river to provide access to health and educational facilities on the opposing riverbed during the rainy season.
“The Engineers Without Borders program provides engineering students with opportunities to apply skills they’ve learned in their classes in meaningful ways that will undoubtedly impact their future careers,” said Deborah Patterson, president, the Monsanto Fund. “This program is a great example of science education being applied to improve lives.”