Six students from Missouri University of Science and Technology will leave Dec. 26 for a two-week trip to western India to conduct research related to global sustainable development. The trek is part of an independent research course led by Dr. Daniel Oerther, the John A. and Susan Mathes Chair of Environmental Engineering at Missouri S&T.
“I love leading student teams to other countries,” says Oerther, who spent six months in the country as a Fulbright scholar in 2006. “Travel overseas provides our students with an improved knowledge of communication, life-long learning and teamwork.”
With a broad focus on sustainability and wellness, students will explore their own areas of expertise and interest before, during and after the trip.
Environmental engineering students Katelyn Denby of Edwardsville, Ill., and Amanda Holmes of Rolla, Mo., are studying how they can fight obesity and poverty by optimizing gardening. They are developing software that can assist people in making healthy eating choices by calculating the best produce for the individuals to grow based on a variety of factors, such as the climate and personal preferences.
“The research we’ll be doing in India seems to have three facets: water, food and wellness,” Denby says. “While each of these aspects comes from a specific research project, it sounds like we will have the opportunity to work a little on each one.”
Lee Voth-Gaeddert of Hesston, Kan., a senior in civil engineering, and Alexander Korff of Dodge City, Kan., a senior in environmental engineering, will test the rural area’s well water. They hope to establish a small team from the local university to assist with tracking levels of harmful contaminants through the dry and wet seasons.
“The first issue we will have is getting all the testing equipment through airport security,” Voth-Gaeddert says. “Once in-country, this will not be a problem.”
Darrell Wallace of Lee’s Summit, Mo., a junior in civil engineering, will work with 10 families in India to help parents better understand their children’s eating habits. Parents will receive smart phones that have calorie apps and will be asked to track their kids’ nutrition and exercise.
“I am excited to learn more about India and how I can help the people there,” Wallace says.
Rebecca Holmes of Rolla, Mo., will serve as an assistant and communication director during the trip. Holmes will graduate in December from Missouri S&T with a bachelor’s degree in history. While in India, she’ll conduct outreach and post entries on the team’s Rolla Local to Global India blog.
Oerther’s wife, Sarah, is a nurse and will co-lead the trip. Nursing students from India will collaborate with the S&T students on the research projects.
“In this way, our students from S&T will be living and working side-by-side with students from India,” he says. “What a benefit for S&T students to learn about the culture of India through side-by-side collaboration with middle-class Indian students collectively working to solve the challenges of developing villages in India.”