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Lafayette’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) team has received national media exposure for being one of six college and university teams from across the nation to be awarded a $75,000 grant through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.

Coverage of the award has appeared May 12 in the article “Students shine at sustainable design contest” on Two other articles, along with video and audio clips, can be viewed at Voice of “National Sustainable Design Expo Highlights Student Work” appeared on May 12 and “Competition Challenges Students to Develop Environmentally-Friendly Technology” appeared on May 19 and includes an interview with Marquis Scholar and student team leader Margaret Garcia ’07 (Stamford, Conn.), who is pursuing a B.S. civil engineering and A.B. with a major in international studies.

The team has been working for the past three years to provide several Honduran villages with clean drinking water in conjunction with the engineering policy course taught by Sharon Jones, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Team members presented their project during Phase II of the competition held May 9-10 in Washington D.C., which was judged by the National Academy of Sciences.

Phase I of the competition consisted of a $10,000 grant, which was awarded in the summer of 2005, and the opportunity to participate in Phase II. Besides the EWB team, another team of Lafayette students headed by Steven Mylon, assistant professor of chemistry, and Arthur Kney, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, also competed in Phase II. Their project consisted of finding viable options for removing arsenic from ground waters.

The EWB team joined Appalachian State University, the University of Michigan, Portland State University, the University of Massachusetts – Lowell, and Stanford University as top grant winners.

“Our EWB chapter has done great things since its inception in 2003,” says co-adviser David Brandes, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “This is the icing on the cake for all of us that have invested so much of our time in the chapter.”

The team has been designing and will eventually construct clean water distribution systems, as well as irrigation, in the villages of Lagunitas and La Fortuna in Yoro, Honduras, which have never had access to safe drinking water. The professors and student teams have taken numerous trips to the work site since the project began.

“Even more than recognition, this grant allows us to implement a sustainable water and sanitation system for 141 people in Honduras who do not have access to clean water,” says Jones. “That’s what we’ve been working for and so far students have had to beg and raise funds while also trying to develop the solutions. For the next year, we can devote ourselves to what we do best – using our academic skills to develop solutions for people. We hope that this recognition and the student accomplishments will help the Lafayette community realize that this is an effort worth supporting over the long term.”

For the competition, the students were in charge of all the work, including assessing the problem, developing solutions, writing the report, developing the proposal for more funding and competing.

“The competition itself was very stimulating for the students,” says Jones. “They saw excellent presentations from some high caliber schools and we all learned a great deal. The students were repeatedly congratulated for the high quality of their work.”

Other student team members were Lori Gonzalez ’09 (Bronx, N.Y.); Arno Alarcan ’06 (Delmar, N.Y.), a mechanical engineering major; Ben Flath ’07 (Scotch Plains, N.J.), a civil engineering major; Carolyn Fisher ’06 (Mahopac, N.Y.), a mechanical engineering major; Will Hockett ’06 (Portland, Ore.), a double major in A.B. engineering and government & law; Marco Tjioe ’09 (North Sumatera, Indonesia); Michael Lemken ’09 (Emerson, N.J.); Greg Roscoe ’06 (Bolton, Conn.), an A.B. engineering major; Debra Perrone ’08 (Fairlawn, N.J.), a civil engineering major; Marquis Scholar Briana Niblick ’06(Hatboro, Pa.), who is pursuing a B.S. civil engineering and A.B. with a major in German; Adam Kaufer ’06 (Kingston, Pa.), a double major in A.B. engineering and economics & business; Tiffany Geklinsky ’07 (Pen Argyl, Pa.), an A.B. engineering major; Daniela Ochoa-Diaz ’08 (Davie, Fla.), an international affairs major; Taha Jiwaji ’08 (Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania), who is pursuing an A.B. in economics and business and a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering; Vanessa Araujo- Lopera ’08 (Woodhaven, N.Y.), an international commerce major; and Al-Amin Kheraj ’08 (Easton, Pa.), international affairs.

Jones says the grant will go a long way toward helping the team and the people in Honduras.

“To conduct service-learning effectively, students need to visit the community they are working with,” she says. “So, travel is a large but necessary cost. Another large part of the award will go to materials and supplies to build the water and sanitation system.”

Another component of the grant will be a conference hosted by EWB at Lafayette this spring about environmental sustainability. Student groups from across the country will be invited to participate in a variety of workshops and talks. The goal will be to promote the use of multidisciplinary service-learning to develop sustainable solutions for rural infrastructure problems in developing countries.

“We believe in the concept so much and think we have a pretty good framework in place that we want to share it with others,” says Jones.

Brandes and Jones will also be forming an EWB advisory board consisting of three engineering faculty and three humanities/social studies faculty to help stimulate even more multidisciplinary support throughout campus.

“For me, this accomplishment highlights the great things that can happen when students from different disciplines work together to tackle real-world problems,” Jones says. “Lafayette has an excellent engineering program and an excellent liberal arts program – combining them has been wonderful.”

The next step for the Honduras project will be a trip in August when four students will accompany the professors to present the design alternatives to the community of LaFortuna. A much larger group of students will travel to the site in January to begin construction and implementation of the water and sanitation system and conduct focused research on what makes these types of projects sustainable. The team will also identify a new village to begin work on in 2007.

“We want to thank the AB engineering program for devoting faculty resources to this effort to bridge engineering with the rest of campus,” Jones says. “We would also like to thank Art Kney and the efforts of the other P3 Team from Lafayette for the friendly internal competition. This internal competition led both teams to accomplish even more and played a large part in our success. Finally, we thank all the students who helped not just this year and not just as part of the design course. Many people contributed to EWB since 2003 and all of those efforts led to the recent success.”

Categorized in: Academic News