Engineering Students to Provide Clean Water to Largest Tent City in Haiti
Up to 100,000 displaced Haitians living in Onaville, the largest tent city on this island country, struggle daily to access the most basic ingredient for survival: clean drinking water. Thanks to a group of mechanical engineering students at Embry-Riddle, the community will soon have access to the water purification system it so desperately needs.
Tent cities like Onaville, located north of Port Au Prince, sprang up after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure in 2010 and displaced approximately 1.5 million Haitians. Until recently, non-government relief organizations (NGOs) have provided water and other support to these communities.
“The water trucks simply stopped coming [to Onaville]. We don’t know why,” says Marc Compere, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus. Onaville residents are now walking up to several miles a day to retrieve untreated well water, likely contaminated by sewage runoff. Cholera is prevalent, as are a number of other water-borne diseases.
Accompanied by Compere, the students, pictured at right, are traveling to Haiti on Aug. 14-22 and bringing with them a purification system capable of producing 25 gallons of water per minute. The student team has partnered with Nehemiah Vision Ministries, a Haitian NGO, to install the water system at a newly constructed deep well and cistern storage facility in the tent city.
Contributions and sponsors are still being sought for the project, which will cost approximately $30,000 to complete. To support the project visit: www.alumnifidelity.com/projecthaiti.html. For sponsorships, contact Compere at email@example.com.
According to Compere, the living conditions in Haiti are beyond what most Americans can comprehend. “It was terrible the day before the earthquake. After the earthquake it was literally inhumane. Haiti is just now getting back up to terrible.”
The project is the third in a progression of water related engineering efforts in Haiti for Embry-Riddle students. In August 2011, Compere and a group of mechanical engineering students and faculty installed a solar-powered water purification and storage system at an orphanage and school in Chambellan, Haiti. The year prior, students erected a battery-powered purification system at a private school in Chambrun.
Each year the size and scope of the water purification systems have grown. The system installed in 2010 provided one gallon of clean water per minute, says Yung Wong, graduate teaching assistant for the mechanical engineering department and chief engineer for Project Haiti 2012. The 2011 system was built to process four gallons of water per minute. This year’s project is providing exponentially more water, in order to accommodate the tens of thousands of people living in the Onaville camp.
Yung, who was the lead student engineer for the 2011 project as well, says what he witnessed last year in Haiti motivated him to return this August. “The entire time we were there, the orphans drank from the city water line. We had tested that water the first day we got there and found it was full of bacteria. They have no other choice,” he says. “Water is the lifeline to a good life. By being able to provide clean water, we are improving their health and empowering them to have a more prosperous future.”
Kyle Fennesy, the undergraduate student lead for the 2012 project, says he’s excited to do his part to help. “The Haitian people are still struggling to recover from the earthquake, and I don’t want to stand on the sidelines of the recovery efforts,” he says. Fennesy and Yung are among eight students traveling to Haiti to establish the water purification system in Onaville.
While watching the devastation of the earthquake on TV in 2010, Compere says he realized he and his students could contribute to the relief activities. “I noticed one of their biggest needs was clean water, and that’s an engineering problem,” he explains. With support from the university and numerous sponsors, Project Haiti was born.
The project has been a “win, win, win, win, win,” Compere adds. “The students gain a global perspective in addition to applying their engineering knowledge to a real world problem outside of the classroom; the Haitians get a clean and reliable water source; the university gains public awareness for its outstanding engineering programs; the project sponsors benefit from related cause marketing efforts; and I get to do my job—educating students in a technical field, while opening their eyes to the humanitarian side of helping other people.”
Compere plans to perpetuate Project Haiti at Embry-Riddle, each year identifying a new water project for students to design and construct. The majority of students involved in Project Haiti 2012 are enrolled in a clean energy engineering design course he is teaching this summer. For more information, contact Compere at firstname.lastname@example.org.