Cameroon team members Erica Addonizio and Mike Orella conduct tests on the flow control system for the 20,000-liter storage tank.

EWB abroad

UD's Engineers Without Borders wraps up projects in Cameroon, Guatemala

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11:54 a.m., March 11, 2013--Over the 2013 Winter Session, teams of University of Delaware College of Engineering students active in the campus Engineers Without Borders (EWB-UD) organization went to Cameroon and to Guatemala to complete impressive sustainability projects for rural villages.

Both projects finalized work that involved several years of planning, construction and close collaboration with community members.

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In Cameroon, a four-member team — seniors Mike Orella and Erica Addonizio, doctoral student Ramsey Hazbun and Steve Dentel, professor of civil and environmental engineering and EWB-UD faculty adviser — spent two weeks in the Bamendjou region insuring that the solar panel-powered pumping system successfully fed water to a 20,000-liter ferro-cement tank previously constructed near a hilltop school.

The completed network now includes three borehole wells, six pumps powered by 24 solar panels, and seven tapstands serving potable water to over 2,000 people in three villages. 

The principal of the local school already reports student absenteeism has been halved due to the availability of safe drinking water. According to Emmanuel Mukam, the mayor of Bamendjou, the system will have an even wider impact, by demonstrating the utility of solar energy in areas that have no electrical or water infrastructure.

A final celebration and handoff of the system, was attended by several hundred people, including many local dignitaries and the U.S. ambassador to Cameroon, Robert P. Jackson, who stated that “the work you have completed is invaluable and speaks to the desire we have in the United States to see Cameroon and Africa develop, prosper, and succeed.”

Orella, a senior chemical engineering major and Honors Program student and the project manager for the Cameroon team, added that “these projects change the course of the students’ education, their careers, and even their lives.”

In Guatemala, engineering students Dhara Amin and Chelsea Trottier, and Ben Berwick, a doctoral student, traveled to San José Petacalapa with faculty member April Veness and engineering professional Guillermo Gordillo.

As in Cameroon, the mission was to complete some final touches on their project, in this case, a 60-foot steel-reinforced concrete bridge built on their previous trip. 

The bridge was found to be in frequent use, and had withstood a recent earthquake that had attained an intensity of 7.3 off the coast of Guatemala.

With help from the townspeople, a protective rock border was placed along wing walls and abutments to protect them from scour when the river (now renamed the “Rio Delaware”) runs high in the rainy season.  

The Guatemala team also received wide praise from the community. At a town meeting, team members surveyed the community on bridge usage as part of their final project evaluation, but were mostly met with effusive gratitude for their help over past five years. 

A member of the governing Comité gave the EWB-UD team members an open invitation to return in the future, to see the bridge and their friends in the community.

Amin, a senior mechanical engineering and Honors Program student and the team’s project manager, summed it up, saying, “The memories and the lives we have impacted will never be forgotten.”

Dentel expressed his pride in these groups. “Over the course of these projects, we sent over 50 UD students to represent UD and our country, in places where many people had never met an American before.  They represented our very best — in their skills, in their warm manners, and even in their resilience when we had to solve problems on the fly.” 

He reports that the EWB students are now identifying their next project sites and locations, to be announced at the EWB Benefit Dinner on April 18.

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