Since 2003, Water for Waslala has been a key partner for the engineering service program. Faculty and students travel to Nicaragua each year to evaluate water resources in low-income rural communities, and incorporate potential development projects into the undergraduate senior design curriculum. Students on these trips are expected to identify areas of need, and also build relationships with local partners and organizations in this central mountain region. In addition to the design and implementation of water supply networks and the improvement of water quality, multidisciplinary engineering work is also being done in the areas of renewable energy and communication systems. One recent project involved the installation of a prototype system for a telehealth project, which uses local cell phone networks and server connections to help improve communication between rural health workers and hospital staff members in a town a day’s journey away.
Reflections on Water for Waslala
“In Waslala, I was a part of a water supply group whose initiatives included water sources, transport and quality. The types of water systems we are trying to develop here are gravity driven. This limits possible water sources to those with a higher elevation than the community that will be served. The higher you go, the better the water quality, but it adds more difficulties as far as building the intake and laying the piping for the water system itself. You need to transport concrete, piping and tools into a very dense part of the mountain jungle to start building this system. The elevation also means that the pipe line will need multiple pressure brake points. It was interesting to discover the huge number of obstacles that stood in the way between a community and the construction of what would seem to be an extremely simple and small scale water system. My trip to Waslala was indeed an eye opening, enriching and rewarding experience. Trips like these really are once in a life time opportunities and the only regret I have is not going on one sooner.” —Philip Arets ’13 ME