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Spotlight: Engineering without Borders in Peru

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Spotlight: Engineering without Borders in Peru

Date Published:
Friday, October 21, 2011

Three members of the Lee College of Engineering’s new Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student organization took an exploratory trip to Peru in the summer of 2011, and identified a number of projects the group will be taking on over the next few years.

The team included Civil Engineering students Kevin Watkins, JR Hopson and Michael Hoff. They were accompanied by Civil Engineering faculty members Brett Tempest, Miguel Pando and Pricilla Selembo.

The UNC Charlotte team touched down in Cuszo, Peru – the ancient Incan cultural capital of the region. They were received by a Peruvian host family that housed and fed them for the duration of their time in Peru.

The team spent three days in the region of Parque de la Papa in a village called Paru Paru. The community president briefed the team on a series of potential projects intended to improve community conditions, as well as help build livelihood opportunities through sustainable tourism. The first was a series of five bridges on the road that leads into the community. During the rainy season, the people of Paru Paru are confined to the community because the roads are impassible.

Other projects included building an elementary school, extending a water distribution system to the rest of the Parque de la Papa community, and developing a sanitation and shower system. Currently, the facilities are pit privy latrines.

The goal of this trip was to discover ways that engineering students can apply their knowledge and effort to improving the quality of life for the Paru Paru community members and to build the relationships necessary for future work.

The goal of this trip was to discover ways that engineering students can apply their knowledge and effort to improving the quality of life for the Paru Paru community members and to build the relationships necessary for future work. The students and faculty from UNC Charlotte recognize it is not sufficient to simply engineer a technical solution, but that sustainability requires consideration of social, economic and environmental aspects.

The site was selected with the help of UNC Charlotte’s partner organization, the Michael Scott Mater Foundation. The Mater Foundation conducts study abroad trips as alternative spring break opportunities for college students, and as trips for Charlotte high school juniors and seniors.

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is an international organization that partners with communities here and around the world to put the skills of engineers and others to work helping people gain sustainable access to basic necessities such as housing, sanitation, and safe drinking water.

The UNC Charlotte EWB chapter will tackle projects in Peru over the course of the next few years. The group is also involved in local projects in Charlotte. More information on the group and projects is available at the organization’s website.