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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Engineering students headed for Africa to iinstall safe drinking water systems

By Katie Petersen

December 13, 2006 | As most students head home for the holiday break, a few Utah State students have very different plans. Utah State's Engineers Without Borders will be in Uganda to install pumps and wells for clean drinking water.

Engineers Without Borders or EWB is a worldwide organization that allows students to get real-life experience in engineering while doing a humanitarian service. Three of the club members and a professor will be on the travel team that is going to Africa.

The group will leave Logan on Dec. 12 to take the long flight to Uganda. When they get there they will install a rainwater collection system, a well and water pumps in a school in Masaka. Currently the students have to walk very long distances to get drinking water that is still unfit to drink.

Last December, the team was in Uganda and took samples and determined exactly what they would need to complete the project. The water was tested for coliforms which, is a good indicator if the drinking water has disease-causing organisms in the water. Contaminated water can lead to dysentery and malaria. In 2000, clean drinking water was only available to half the of the rural population.

The main goal of the project is to get clean drinking water close to the school. The water they drink now is essentially from a pond that is contaminated from animals, bacteria and even people.

John Sapp, a member of the club, describes the current situation as "an open ditch ... where they put their buckets fill it up and the kids take it back up the hill, where they put it in a container, boil it and then put it in another container that they can actually drink from."

The new system will store all the water underground where it can be kept clean.

The club members have been doing tests before they leave and vice president over projects, Chris Webb, says the water pumps work "surprisingly well."

As funding is always needed for these kinds of projects, the engineers plan to take along a filmmaker to document their experience. Ashley Karras, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism, will follow the engineers every step of the way documenting the entire process. Karras and the club hope the documentary will encourage donations for the project.

"My purpose for this trip is to create a documentary that will allow the engineers to show their work through a medium that speaks louder than words," Karras said. "Hopefully they will be able to get more funding - that is a huge factor in determining how far their efforts can reach."

Karras has also created a Web site to promote the project and funding.

The group will also donate school supplies to the school and set up a solar powered DVD player and TV for the students to watch educational movies while they are there.

If time permits the engineers hope to be able to take a side trip to a a national park for a safari.



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