Members of the University of Maine student group Engineers Without Borders will travel to Ecuador for two weeks in August on an assessment trip they hope will open the door to a long-term project to improve water security in the region.
From Aug. 16–28, six UMaine students and two mentors will stay in La “Y” de La Laguna in the coastal rain forest of Ecuador. La “Y,” which means the “Y” or a fork in the road, is a 300-person community that is struggling with an insufficient supply of drinking water.
A long dry season and inadequate storage is responsible for the low water supply. Residents are now dependent on buying untreated river water from an improvised tanker truck, according to EWB-UMaine members. The group aims to improve water security by helping the community find an adequate source, appropriate treatment, and reliable distribution.
“This trip will help us assess the needs of the community and build relationships that are vital to project success,” says EWB-UMaine member Logan Good. “Thinking ahead, this trip is just the beginning of a great companionship with the people of La ‘Y’ and a fantastic chance to experience global engineering.”
EWB-UMaine is a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA. It was founded in 2007 and is made up of students and professional mentors who introduce communities in developing countries to sustainable engineering projects that aim to improve residents’ quality of life. Students from any major can join the group.
Good, a mechanical engineering student from Presque Isle, Maine, is the team’s project leader, co-design leader and assistant health and safety officer. During the trip, he will be responsible for ensuring all scheduled tasks are accomplished and for providing a safe, educational and exciting experience for team members.
This is the second EWB-UMaine trip for Good, who traveled with the group to Honduras in March 2013.
“Engineers Without Borders provides many opportunities to enrich students’ global perspectives and create responsible leaders,” Good says.
During the summer assessment trip, EWB-UMaine members will meet with the community, collect water quality and health data, and discuss possible storage solutions.
Edwin Nagy, a civil and environmental engineering lecturer at UMaine, is the group’s interim adviser and will attend the trip as an engineering mentor. His focus will be on the students’ relation-building efforts as they try to understand the community’s needs and organizational structure. Robert Sypitkowski, an environmental engineer and UMaine alumnus, will provide the main technical guidance on the trip, Nagy says.
Sypitkowski traveled to La “Y” in December to meet community members. While there, he learned that five years ago, a water pump system was constructed, but the system immediately failed and there is no funding to fix it. After conducting water quality tests, he determined a new source and a storage system are needed, and the community agreed, according to Sypitkowski.
Involving the community is an important aspect of the project, according to Nagy. Community members also will be given cameras and encouraged to take photos to spark discussions with EWB-UMaine about future potential projects.
“Having the community involved from the beginning means that the people who benefit from the project are involved in keeping it alive, and it means that needs identified are needs that the people themselves believe they have,” Nagy says, adding the group’s short-term goal is to get to know the community well enough to assess and understand their needs while making friends.
“I am very interested to know their story, make new stories with them, and of course, play some futbol,” Good says of the local residents.
After the assessment trip, the students will work with the mentors to design a suitable water system. Over the next several years, the group will take a series of implementation and monitoring trips to assist La “Y” with at least water storage, if not water quality. Nagy expects the project will take three to five years to complete.
In between trips, the group will work on perfecting their design; raising funds; and analyzing data on water quality, health, satisfaction and political status collected from the community. The data will help the group determine what effect their work is having on the perceived quality of life in the region.
Educational programs will be provided to community members throughout the project term to keep residents informed and encourage sustainability. Programs will include discussion about coliforms and related health risks, as well as information about operation and maintenance of the water system the group implements.
“If all goes well, this will overlap with other projects within this community or neighboring communities and we can have a long-term relationship with the people in and around La ‘Y,’ slowly helping them get to a point where they have the infrastructure for long-term, self-directed growth,” Nagy says.
In 2013, EWB-UMaine completed a five-year effort to implement a community septic system for 28 homes in Dulce Vivir, Honduras. In 2012, the project earned a $25,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation and the EWB-USA “Premiere Project Award” — the only award of its kind given to a student chapter that year. The project taught students how to work with a community to develop and implement a sustainable project, such as the one they are now pursuing in Ecuador.
“I hope the students will gain an appreciation for the many alternative ways of living in the world, a more practical approach to engineering and an increased sense of the options available to them as engineers,” Nagy says.
In February, the group was awarded a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant for work to be completed in Ecuador during the summer. Projects for Peace grants are funded by the Davis Foundation and are awarded to efforts that address conflict resolution and reconciliation, foster understanding, provide opportunity and build community, according to the foundation.
UMaine chemistry student Bryer Sousa also won a Projects for Peace grant in 2013 to install biosand water filters in 50 households in an impoverished rural region of Honduras.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
The University of Maine’s First Year Center is recruiting faculty, staff and student volunteers to welcome UMaine’s Class of 2018. Volunteers can help during Maine Hello from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29 and/or the Welcome Weekend Day of Service on Saturday, Aug. 30.
Maine Hello volunteers assist with greeting families, answering questions, directing traffic and moving first-year students’ belongings into their dorm rooms.
Student volunteers who will be living on campus can move into residence halls two days early on Wednesday, Aug. 27. Registration is online. For more information, call the First Year Center at 207.581.1420.
The Weekly published the article “UMaine community garden grows sustainability,” about the community garden at the University of Maine’s Terrell House Permaculture Living and Learning Center. The project began as a small garden shared by the Terrell House and its neighbors. Starting this year, house residents have initiated the first phase of a larger community garden with plots available for individuals and groups interested in practicing sustainable agriculture, the article states. “We want the garden to become a hub for sustainability on campus,” said Dee Clark, Terrell House resident and finance and records coordinator. The article cited the garden as one part of a growing sustainability movement on campus. UMaine Greens, a student-run greenhouse project, and the Black Bear Food Guild, a student-run community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, also were mentioned.
WLBZ2 (Channel 2) reported the University of Maine will institute changes in its stalking and relationship abuse policies in the wake of “Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault” released in April 2014.
The University of Maine Counseling Center and Touchstone Resources has been reaccredited by the International Association of Counseling Services Inc. (IACS), an Alexandria, Virginia-based organization of United States, Canadian and Australian counseling agencies.
The UMaine services were evaluated by IACS using high standards of counseling practice and were found to be competent, reliable and professional. IACS approval also depends on evidence of continuing professional development as well as demonstration of counseling performance excellence.
The UMaine Counseling Center and Touchstone Resources is directed by psychologist Douglas Johnson, and offers a range of mental health counseling services to students.
IACS was established to encourage and aid counseling agencies to meet high professional standards through peer evaluation and to inform the public about dependable agencies.
The University of Maine student group Male Athletes Against Violence (MAAV) was mentioned in a Morning Sentinel article about the “Party With Consent” movement started by a graduating student at Colby College. The initiative aims to encourage healthy interactions between the sexes at college parties. In 2010, Mark Tappan, a professor of education at Colby, brought a chapter of MAAV to the college, after the group was started at UMaine. Student Jonathan Kalin became president of the Colby group, whose name has since changed to Mules Against Violence, and started Party With Consent as an initiative of that organization.
WVII (Channel 7) reported on the annual Clean Sweep Sale held at the University of Maine. Items for sale were donated by the university or students who moved out of the dorms at the end of the semester. Proceeds from the sale support programs and services offered by the Black Bear Exchange and student service projects coordinated by the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism. According to the report, several students volunteered at the sale that was put on by the Bodwell Center. The center serves to educate students on the importance of helping others.
WABI (Channel 5) advanced the University of Maine’s annual Clean Sweep Sale that will take place 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Friday, May 23 and 8 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday, May 24 in York Commons. Items for sale include furniture, clothes and appliances that were donated by the university or students who moved out of the dorms at the end of the semester. Proceeds will support programs and services offered by the Black Bear Exchange and student service projects coordinated by the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism.
The University of Maine will hold the annual Clean Sweep Sale 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Friday, May 23 and 8 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday, May 24 in York Commons.
Furniture, electronics, appliances, housewares, cleaning supplies, books, bedding, shoes and clothing will be among the items for sale. Items were donated by the university or students who moved out of the dorms at the end of the semester.
Proceeds will support programs and services offered by the Black Bear Exchange and student service projects coordinated by the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism.
Call the Bodwell Center at 207.581.3091 for more information.
The Cape Cod Times reported the Maine Steiners, the University of Maine’s oldest a cappella group, will headline “A Cappella Fest” at Falmouth High School in Falmouth, Massachusetts on May 22. The group is scheduled to perform with Hawkapella from the University of Hartford in Connecticut and Falmouth High School’s Soulfege.