Back from Panama, UMass Dartmouth College of Engineering Students Reflect on Year 2 of Engineering Without Borders Project

UMass Dartmouth Engineering Without Borders Student Chapter Holds Presentation on Project to Help Village Access Clean Water Supply

UMass Dartmouth engineering students and the group's professional mentor provided details on their most recent travels to the mainland hills of the Bocas Del Toro province of Panama yesterday in the Grand Reading Room at UMass Dartmouth's Claire T. Carney Library. The students discussed their challenges, accomplishments and how they are gaining practical engineering experience through small scale, sustainable engineering projects. 

This was their second trip of a 5-year Engineering Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) project to help a village of 300 indigenous Ngobe people rehabilitate their increasingly insufficient water distribution system. Many houses often can go a day or two without receiving any water. This causes many families to seek out water in streams and creeks, which are not fit for drinking and often cause health issues, especially in children. 

Students traveled to Valle Las Perlas for an inital assessment of the current system in the spring of 2012. The students found that a protected spring, approximately a mile away from the community, supplies ample clean water. During the summer of 2013, students traveled again to collect topographical data that will be used in the design of the refurbished system and the project is currently in the design phase. Limited implementation of improvements is scheduled to be completed in the summer 2014. 

"We are dedicated to being part of the engineering and humanitarian solution that provides Valle Las Perlas regular access to drinkable water in centralized locations in the village," said Ben Mitsmenn, a College of Engineering graduate student who has been on both travel teams to the Panamanian village. "Though this may have been my last trip through the university, I'm determined to go down again to affirm my commitment in the project and the people of that community." 

There are additional EWB students who are in line to go on the next assessment trip.  There is a consistent thread of old and new students who stay involved, passing along knowledge to the next travel team and having at least one student develop a connection with the community. With over 350 projects in more than 45 different countries, Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) is helping millions live safely and sustainably. UMass Dartmouth's EWB-USA Chapter is one of 180 university chapters currently operating. 

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