Several engineering students at Wichita State University are introducing Shocker innovations to a small village in Ecuador.
Through the WSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, three students recently began the process of working with the rural community of Mercedes de Agua Suchia in Manabi, Ecuador, to build a footbridge that would give residents safe passage to the main road and nearby towns, sell goods and produce from their farms, and shop in the El Carmen nearby, and let the children go to school.
Three students – Julian Vasquez, a sophomore electrical engineering student from Wylie, Texas; Austin Rempel, a product design and manufacturing startup from Hillsboro, Kansas; Nicholas Reyes, a first-year computer engineering student from Oklahoma City, traveled to Ecuador over the summer to begin assessing community needs.
“They have a wide river that blocks access to the main roads, and they have built a temporary bridge over the trees using bamboo and metal wire that residents use to cross, including children who cross their way to school every day,” Reyes said. “Our goal is for this bridge to provide safe and fast road access.”
In addition to the Wichita State team, a licensed civil engineer will work alongside the students to assist on the project.
Agua Sucia in Manabi is home to about 20 families, and the Architects Without Borders team has been deliberate in its efforts to include villagers in the planning process.
“Our students spent time working with and getting to know the people in the village,” said Dr. Jacob Mendez, director of Student Engagement and Career Readiness at the Wichita State College of Engineering. “They also taught the villagers how to use the equipment, and some local construction workers helped us dig holes for the survey.”
In all, the team spent about six days in Ecuador, surveying the village’s needs, developing a plan, and getting to know the people.
“All the people we met in Ecuador were incredibly kind and welcoming,” said Reyes. “The culture was rich, and they had great food. Everyone in the village wanted to help in any way they could. I am so grateful that I met everyone.”
“It was amazing,” Vazquez said. “They were so friendly and amazing spirits.”
The team will take data from surveys and community feedback and begin the process of pricing and supply, recruiting more students to the project, consulting with specialists, and creating a sustainable design plan. Then, in the summer of 2024, Wichita State Engineers will return to Ecuador to do the actual bridge construction.
“Our next trip should be on a much larger scale next summer,” Reyes said. “We need to transport the material and pour large portions of concrete over a short period of time for it to cure properly.”
The estimated cost of building the bridge and travel ranges between $40,000 and $50,000. The community in Ecuador will pay 5% of those costs, and the students will collect the bulk of the expenses. a Fundraiser set up Through the WSU Foundation and Alumni Participation.
Meanwhile, planning continues in Wichita.
“We will draw up the technical plans for the bridge itself; but perhaps more importantly, we will plan to manage the time to build a complete bridge efficiently with the time we have,” Rempel said.
The project has revitalized the students’ appreciation of the field of engineering.
“To be able to see the technical side of things but also see the drive behind engineering. It’s not a profession. It’s a service,” Vasquez said.
It has also been useful in showing students how what they learn in the classroom can be applied to real-world situations.
“It helped me see beyond the grueling schoolwork I had chosen to devote four years of my life to,” Rempel said. “It also helped me see some useful information within these classes, but mostly encouraged me to do engineering with an actual goal in mind beyond my GPA.”
Reyes agreed and said his time in Ecuador helped him gain practical insight into his career.
“It was a great experience to learn how to see a project from start to finish, break it down into phases, and plan carefully,” said Reyes. “Above all, traveling to Ecuador and working directly with the people we help was a powerful reminder of what being an engineer means to me: changing people’s lives for the better.”
About Wichita State University
Wichita State University is Kansas’ only urban public research university, with nearly 22,000 students enrolled between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the United States and more than 100 countries. Wichita State University and WSU Tech are known for being student-centered and innovative.
Located in the state’s largest city with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs, Wichita State University offers uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways to applied learning, applied research, and employment opportunities. to all of our students.
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