Many students use their summers to relax and decompress, to earn money or to participate in internships in the field of their choice.
A group of students from West Virginia Universitys College of Engineering and Mineral Resources had the opportunity to do something a little outside the norm this summer and, in the process, made a difference in the lives of people in two small communities in Nicaragua.
The studentsJared Crawford of Parkersburg; Rob Murphy of Mount Hope; Gerry Pass of Wilmington, Del.; and Eileen Reiff of Ocean, N.J.are members of Engineers Without Borders, an organization dedicated to bringing studentsengineering talents to help with world problems.
Along with Lian-Shin Lin , assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering , and Rodney Holbert, a WVU graduate from Mineral Wells, the students spent a week in Nicaragua in August. While there, they assessed the water supplies of the two small towns of Rancho Grande and Cerro Verde and helped build and install water filtration systems for the townschildrens feeding centers.
Because of a lack of regulation and poor infrastructure, the inhabitants of the towns are continually exposed to pathogens in their water supply, Lin said. By measuring turbidity, pH, temperature, nitrate, chlorine and fecal coliforms in the water supply, as well as installing the water filters, the project aimed to improve overall health conditions for the towns children.
The project was definitely educational for the students, Lin noted.
Through the process of needs assessment and building the water filtration systems, the students became better engineers,he added,and so did I.
The group spent its first night at an inn in Rancho Grande with very few amenities.
Our room had a cement floor with a picnic table with a sheet and pillow on it,Reiff said.There was one bathroom for everyone to share. It makes you really appreciate the little things, like being able to get up and brush your teeth at a sink with clean, running water. It also makes you reconsider the value of money. On our last day in Rancho Grande, it only cost $5 to buy ice cream for all the children in town.
It was an eye-opening experience,Pass said.I had no idea people lived like this, and I wished that I could do more to help. They say, â~To whom much is given, much is expected.With my major in engineering, I hope to help these people and others by using my knowledge and the privileges with which I was blessed.
The trip was a life-changing experience that exposed me to Nicaraguan culture and allowed me to apply engineering principles to the real world,Murphy added.
The group hopes to return to Nicaragua during WVU s spring break to make sure that the filtration systems are working properly and to continue to help the communities in any way it can.
According to Reiff, there is an infinite number of projects that need to be done and in which engineering students can be helpful. For example, she would like to see the group undertake the construction of a pedestrian bridge to allow the children of Cerro Verde to get to school safely.
There is a river surrounding Cerro Verdes elementary school,Reiff said.Whenever it rains, the river floods, and the children cannot get to school. However, on days when the river isnt flooded, the children still have to walk through the river, which can be dangerous at times, and then they have to sit in wet clothes all day.
Holbert, who manages the Parkersburg office of Burgess&Niple Inc. Engineers and Architects, was informed about water contamination at Rancho Grande after he and his wife, Mary, a nurse, returned from a medical mission to Nicaragua in 2007. Meanwhile, Crawford, who also went on the 2007 trip, approached the Engineers Without Borders chapter at WVU about helping out on engineering projects in the country.
Holbert subsequently met with WVU students about helping out in Nicaragua, and the students began working with the medical mission group to coordinate this summers trip.
Working on a project to improve the quality of life in an impoverished country, such as Nicaragua, is a rewarding experience not just for the residents, but for all who work to turn an idea into a reality,said Holbert, who graduated from WVU in 1989 with a masters degree in business administration and from WVU Institute of Technology in 1985 with a bachelors degree in civil engineering.
More on the Net: http://ewb.studentorgs.wvu.edu/