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UW Students Aid Projects in Kenya and Guatemala

February 6, 2014
Two men working
University of Wyoming mechanical engineering students Gabriel Maestas of Green River, left, and Sam Gates of Saratoga examine part of a water distribution system in a small town in Guatemala. They are members of the UW chapter of Engineers Without Borders. (EWB Photo)

While one group was in Guatemala working on a water distribution system, another was in Laramie, planning a visit to a village in Kenya that requested help building a dormitory for schoolgirls.

Projects such as these are all in day’s work for students in the University of Wyoming chapter of Engineers Without Borders, an organization that provides opportunities for students to contribute to meaningful engineering projects in various parts of the world.

“I joined because I wanted to do something where I would make a difference by helping people,” says chapter vice president Abby Huyler, of Fort Collins, Colo., a junior in mechanical engineering and a member of the team that is working with the town of Mbita, Kenya. UW has worked on projects in Kenya before, and was approached by the community on a previous trip. They requested assistance in building a dormitory at the Hope School, a privately funded school that educates orphaned and vulnerable children. Most of the students were orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS.

“It’s been rewarding so far. I’m gaining real-world experience, while building communication and leadership skills,” Huyler says.

Huyler says members of the Kenya team plan to travel this spring to assess the community, topography, soil quality and water quality to begin designs for the dormitory. UW will work with the community to assess its needs and design a working water distribution system, Huyler says.

The team that went to Guatemala returned to UW this semester after spending part of the winter break assessing the water distribution systems at Comunidad Maya Nueve de Enero. The group determined that the town’s drinking water delivery system and other community infrastructure needed improvement.

UW students who were on the trip to Guatemala were Callie Berman, Boulder, Colo.; Sam Gates, Saratoga; Gabriel Maestas, Green River; Kyla Mock, Gillette; and Jacqueline Todak, Seattle, Wash.

UW is among more than 250 student chapters of EWB-USA. Membership is open to all UW students, not just those in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

The chapter’s mission is to “help disadvantaged communities improve their quality of life through implementation of environmentally and economically sustainable engineering projects, while developing internationally responsible engineering students.”

The only way such work is possible is through private donations and EWB-WYO sponsored fundraisers. The UW chapter will present the “Breaking Borders Masquerade” Saturday, Feb. 22, from 6-10 p.m. at the Laramie Country Club. Food, drink, entertainment, a raffle and a silent auction will be featured. Tickets cost $40.

To purchase tickets, email Erin Hubl at  Donations are tax deductible.

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