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Globetrotting engineers expand and purify water supply

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, January 31, 2014

Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 01:01

water

Daniel Fay | The Miami Student

David Macko, Alexa Miller and Gretchen McCall collect a water sample with translator Andrew and mentor Dave Matthews. With them is an employee of the local water works.

Over winter term, six members of Miami’s Engineers Without Borders organization traveled to Chaguarpamba, Ecuador with hopes of increasing and improving the area’s water supply. Engineers Without Borders is a student-run organization dedicated to improving quality-of-life in impoverished countries through various engineering developments.

Engineers Without Borders has traveled to Ecuador for the past two years. The purpose of the first trip was to assess Chaguarpamba’s drinking water. The group decided the city’s water was in poor condition and was causing illness throughout the community.

The group returned in January 2013 to implement the necessary changes to improve the water system.

This year, students focused on recording data to create a map of the city’s drinking water system – pipes, meters and valves.

“The city does not receive enough water to support its growing population and does not have a map for the water system,” sophomore assistant project manager Melanie Bukovec said. “This is a problem because a map is necessary in determining the outcomes of leaks and areas where water is being used but not paid for.”

By creating a map of the Chaguarpamba’s water system, the group was able to determine the necessary changes that would increase the overall amount of water available to the city.

“There were several main goals for the trip,” sophomore president Alexa Miller said. “These included monitoring Chaguarpamba’s water chlorination system and testing an experimental water filter which uses the seed of a Moringa tree.”

While Engineers Without Borders is an opportunity for students to gain experience with real world applications of engineering, the participants involved said they tend to get more out of the trip than just engineering practice.

“The best part about the trip is being able to interact with another community and culture as well as be able to see the difference that I have on other people,” Bukovec said. “The past two trips to Ecuador have been such amazing experiences for me and it was really great to return this year and see familiar faces.”

“The impact goes full circle,” Miller said. “Not only were we able to impact the community of Chaguarpamba, but the community impacts us on a daily basis through teaching our team about their culture and leading with example as it pertains to embracing another culture.”

The group also carries out multiple projects throughout the year within the Oxford community. Last year, the chapter worked in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati’s chapter and Greater Cincinnati Professional chapters to replace a 40-foot hiking trail bridge at Kennedy Park in Cincinnati.

“This upcoming semester we hope to work with local schools to plan an activity to involve and excite kids about engineering,” group member Anastasia Raftis said. “Furthermore, we are working with different organizations to help with new, sustainable engineering projects in the community.”

Engineers Without Borders is a way for students from all majors to get involved in helping others throughout the world.

“Engineers Without Borders gives students the opportunity to make a difference in the world with our knowledge and skills and see direct results,” Raftis said. “It is gratifying to know what we do impacts people’s lives.”

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