News

December 28, 2007

Engineers Without Borders Continues Sustainable Water System Project in Honduras

Eight engineering students will work on project during January interim session

Eight members of the College’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) will travel to the community of La Fortuna in the Yoro region of Honduras Jan. 6 – 26 to continue a project set in motion two years ago. They are designing a gravity fed water system that will provide access to clean water for the residents as well as resolve many of their health problems.

“This water system is essential to improving the basic standard of living for the community,” explains team project manager Taha Jiwaji ’08 (Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania), who is pursuing a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering and an A.B. in economics and business. “It will not only save them the tremendous effort of hauling water for long distances to their homes on a daily basis, but also reduce the number of water-borne infections they get, especially for the children. We also hope that it will serve as a springboard for their economic development as the community will have more time to devote to farming and other entrepreneurial initiatives.”

This is one of EWB’s main projects for the last several years. The group has worked to provide about 1,000 people in the neighboring village of Lagunitas with clean water distribution systems and irrigation. The students also built the groundwork for a sustainable economy in Lagunitas through coffee production. The team has been very successful having received a $75,000 grant through the Environmental Protection Agency for the water projects and a $10,000 grant from Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace for the coffee project.

Team members going with Jiwaji in January are mechanical engineering majors Aubrey Kelley-Cogdell ’10 (Cassopolis, Mich.) and Marco Tjioe ’09 (North Sumatera, Indonesia), who is also pursuing an A.B. in chemistry; Daniela Ochoa Diaz ’08 (Davie, Fla.), who is double majoring in international affairs and French; civil engineering majors Michael Adelman ’10 (Clarks Summit, Pa.), Joaquin Indacochea Beltran ’11 (Arequipa, Peru), and Alec Bernstein ’11 (Colts Neck, N.J.); and chemical engineering major Romeo Urias ’10 (Glen Burnie, Md.).

The team is being advised by Reed Colton of Geo Technology Associates and Peter Blackburn, a consultant from Blue Future Filters.

Over the last two years, EWB has collected data about La Fortuna regarding the village’s social, health, and economic needs, which led to the development of this water system to solve one of its most urgent needs of clean water. Construction of the water system began in August of 2007 and the community members have continued work on it since then.

“The primary goal of the January trip is for us to check on the construction of the water system since August and also to implement a unique and key component of this system, the slow sand filter,” explains Jiwaji. “The team will face major logistical challenges with getting the necessary construction materials (sand, tanks, etc.) to the community itself because heavy rains have washed away most of the road.”

Once this project is completed, EWB plans to continue working with La Fortuna. They hope to conduct a thorough economic assessment that will help derive entrepreneurial activities similar to the coffee project in the community in Lagunitas. These activities would be tailored to the resources, geography, and skills of the residents of La Fortuna.

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posted in Academic News, Engineering, Involved, Focused, and Active Students, News and Features, Students

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