Staying busy while on Coop

Being on coop not only means getting a break from school, but it opens your personal schedule up to where you can get back to things you may neglect during school quarters. Many of us do outdoor activities, read, play video games, and a multitude of other activities. Last year I spent a majority of my time training for my Mt. Rainier climb and vastly improving my cooking skills.

This year my main focus will be the Engineers Without Borders project in Kenya. The village (Otho Abwao) has been using a foot pump to draw work for the village of over 450 and we’re going to be providing them with a solar powered pump that can pump the maximum daily foot-pumping in about 6 hours. Just this week I finished some documents I’ve been working on the past few weeks. Over the weekends and nights after work since I got here I’ve created: a contract, specifications section, a materials schedule, and an O&M manual.

What’s really cool about my situation is that I’m one of 6 students going to our village in Kenya in a little over 6 weeks to help build and implement the system. Not to bad for someone who joined the project in late January! I am on the water storage team and was responsible for assisting in the design of two 26,000L ferrocement water tanks. Through most of last quarter my little free time was spent working on the project, although I have 3 good friends who are in all my classes so that was helpful because we knew each other.

Probably one of the hardest things for me (and many other US engineers) was getting a mindset on where the project is and how different cultures do building projects. At first a lot of my ideas were shot down because those means don’t exist in Kenya. I developed a term for our situation, TIK (This Is Kenya), which helps simplify things. What’s also in a unique situation in that we’re not taking any materials with us. So in a way some things will be field decided, which adds more fun to the project. As for the remaining members of the group I pretty much spend a good deal of time hanging out with many of them.

The whole group in EWB is a mix of all majors, engineers and non-engineers, which helps take the nerd factor of the group down I guess. If you’d like more information about the project and to see some pictures taken last year click this link. Working in a civil engineering office also helps out with projects of this type and I’m going to be sending our project around to my co-workers to get feedback and help on issues I haven’t seen. This is one of the many ways at which UC students get to use the education they’re getting (both in school and coop) to build our experience and at the same time help change a few people’s lives.


3 Responses to “Staying busy while on Coop”

  1. May 10, 2008 at 4:43 am

    That’s a great and brilliant idea coming to Kenya, have you located the village you will be engineering? As well i wish to learn the water foot pump idea when you are in Kenya fro my people.

  2. 2 Emily H
    May 10, 2008 at 10:12 am

    …what’s an O&M manual?

  3. 3 Jordan V
    May 10, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Our village is Otho Abwao located in the Nyando District in southwestern Kenya. The foot pump is the current means of water drawing for the village. From what I’ve been told before, the foot pump is a common method used in Africa for getting water from wells. If you’d like more information about what EWB does check out their website http://www.ewb-usa.org/ and you might be able to get more information for your village.

    An O&M Manual is an Operations and Maintenance Manual that most projects require at the end of construction. It tells the technicians how the project operates and what methods are suggested for making repairs to the project.

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