Engineers Without Borders Prove Sustainable Solutions Have No Limits

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Jan. 18, 2013)—From a university with a motto of “No Limits,” USC’s Engineers Without Borders are showing how their solutions for sustainable communities truly have no boundaries. Four members from the student organization used their winter break to begin working on a five-year program that will help develop a sustainable water supply system for an organic coffee plantation in La Victoria, Ecuador.

Alongside four project mentors, USC students Brendan Croom, Andrea Eggleston, Ronny Geylin and Corey King traveled to the developing country Jan. 2 through Jan. 12. This winter’s visit was the first of many to develop, implement and maintain the water system. The students received Magellan grants through the Office of Undergraduate Research to help fund their project. Croom, a third-year mechanical engineer major, helped coordinate the program.

“We were all really excited to work with the village,” said Croom. “The program has given me the opportunity to develop a cultural connection in a part of the world I normally wouldn’t have seen.”

The students visited with 23 farmers of a local coffee-growing cooperative (La Asociación de Caficultores Orgánicos de Las Lajas, or ACOLL) and local engineers. They even met with the mayor of Las Lajas. Croom said the group was able to establish strong relationships in the community they will be working so closely with in following years.

“Everyone was very willing and enthusiastic to work with us, and we see a lot of promise,” said Croom.

The student/mentor team collected data for the system design, which will create a pipeline that uses gravity to flow water two kilometers from a mountain spring to storage ponds near the coffee farms. They surveyed potential pipeline routes with GPS units, obtained topographic maps and consulted with engineers to discuss suitable design options.

The engineering students who continue with the project will use this data to develop and implement the system that will provide vital support to the Andean community’s agriculture. A new group of EWB members from USC will return to the location at the end of the summer to begin the next phase of the project.

For more information on Engineers Without Borders-USA at USC, visit the organization’s website at ewbusc.org. To learn more about education abroad opportunities, contact the Study Abroad Office at studyabroad@sc.edu.