students headed for Africa to iinstall safe drinking
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
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
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
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
If time permits the engineers hope to be able to take
a side trip to a a national park for a safari.