June 12, 2015 — A group of Fairfield University engineering students is helping a rural farming community in Bolivia get access to safe drinking water.
The Fairfield students, along with a student chapter of "Engineers Without Borders" from South Dakota State University, traveled to the Unidad Academia Campesina (UAC) in Carmen Pampa, where expansive growth has created challenges with providing adequate potable water systems.
The students used their mechanical engineering skills to work on a water treatment system under the guidance of Bruce Berdanier, professor and dean of Fairfield’s School of Engineering.
Thanks to their efforts, two chlorinators at UAC were implemented and now provide drinking water that meets World Health Organization standards for developing countries. Residents of the region have reported a 50 percent reduction in stomach distress since the work by the students was completed last year.
“I think that a major part of what engineers do is to provide a service,” said Berdanier. “They see a problem and collaborate to fix it with their skills and knowledge.”
As a Jesuit institution, Fairfield places a high priority on service projects, and the trip allowed the students to see the impact of their work. "I like how you can see your work benefitting a community,” said Katherine Pitz, a senior mechanical engineering major.
The students look forward to returning to the Bolivian community. “I think the most important thing about it is to help [Bolivians] learn to improve the systems themselves, so they do not have to rely on anyone in the future. Maybe they will be able to build a similar system in other places in Bolivia where clean water is needed,” said Pitz.