In its first year, the CCNY chapter of Engineers Without Borders has undertaken a project that promises to improve the quality of life for 350 residents of Nueva Suiza, located in the Cortez region of the Sierra de Omoa Mountains of Honduras.
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is an international organization that seeks to better living conditions for disadvantaged people around the world through water, power, and engineering solutions.
The CCNY chapter, established in October of 2005, consists of 20 students, most pursuing degrees in civil, mechanical and chemical engineering at the Grove School. The chapter is advised by Professor Beth Wittig, P.E. and Cliff Gold, P.E., and mentored by Professors Tom Price, P.E., Vasil Diyamandoglu and Margie Winslow.
After the chapter’s establishment last November, civil engineering students Yurintzy Estrade, the project manager, Rebecca Pizzaro and Miguel Matos, Professor Wittig and Mr. Gold visited Nueva Suiza in April. The students interviewed families in Spanish to learn about the health of the community and its current water use and needs. They performed topographical surveys of potential paths between the spring source and a central location in the community, assessed the quality of water produced by the spring source and collected soil samples along the proposed distribution path. Finally, the team worked alongside community members to construct simple dams and used vegetation to measure the productivity of the spring, finding it produces enough water to satisfy the predicted demand 20 years into the future.
The students are currently designing a system that will protect the water supply, conduit the water from the spring over a mile of hilly, dense tropical rainforest, disinfect the water in a centralized tank located close to the community, distribute the treated water to locations throughout the community and educate the community on managing solid waste and improving ventilation.
Four students will travel to Nueva Suiza in January to construct and implement the water system in collaboration with the community.
In addition to providing vital services to people in need, EWB provides students with meaningful hands-on problem-based learning opportunities and develops skills seldom taught in the classroom — proposal writing, project management, multi-disciplinary collaboration, assessment of social and economic impact and social responsibility.
The sponsors for the chapter start-up and this project, which will cost about $33,000, include the Grove School of Engineering, the CCNY Alumni Association, the Colin Powell Center at CCNY, the CCNY Auxiliary Enterprise Corporation, the CCNY Civil Engineering Alumni Association, Turner Construction Corporation and several individuals.