Sonia Maassel Jacobsen,Jonathan Chaplin 2016-08-24 03:59:28
Help villages in a developing country share water resources among people, livestock, and crops? “You bet!” was the response of Rebecca Mattson, Noah Slocum, Nathan Senger, and Sara Bossenbroek, seniors in the BBE 4502W Senior Capstone course. “Culminating four BBE years with a humanitarian water supply project is the best outcome imaginable,” said Bossenbroek. Senger was excited to work with the client, Somali Green Initiatives and Technology, Ltd. (SOMGIT), because “they’re interested in lasting solutions for the community, not just completing design objectives.” Mattson agreed: “It has been a unique, fulfilling opportunity that directly improves the quality of life for an entire community.” The Somali villages of Danica Baloow are being assisted by SOMGIT from its offices in Mogadishu and near Dallas, Texas. SOMGIT has created an R&D site to test practices for supplying potable and agricultural water. Drip irrigation methods have been tested, and specific crops have been recommended. Using components provided by SOMGIT, the BBE team designed the entire water system for Danica Baloow. The project became a designbuild process in which components were built in Africa as fast as the team could design them. The main objective was to provide a water distribution system that is sustainable, innovative, and economical. While the BBE team pursued this, a Senior Capstone team in civil engineering designed a water tower. The team also designed a unique watering trough that discourages animals from stepping into it and uses different access sizes for cattle versus goats and sheep. The faculty advisor, Bruce Wilson, met weekly with the BBE team. “Even under limiting conditions,” he said, “The students were able to complete their designs using basic engineering principles.” Further objectives were to reduce waterborne disease among humans and reduce the spread of disease among animals that share the watering facilities. World Health Organization guidelines were applied as a standard quality measure, and water test results showed no need for water treatment for agricultural use. Disinfection methods are not likely to be sustainable due to lack of funding for operation and maintenance and lack of access to a reliable source of chlorine. The team’s professional mentor, Walter Eshenaur, said, “The students’ attention to detail and probing questions gave them the background to design a unique, high-quality, appropriate solution for Danica Baloow.” Eshenaur indicated that SOMGIT approached cautiously at first. However, countless e-mails and numerous Skype calls helped everyone stay on track. “Because the students were highly motivated and maintained good communication, important decisions were made quickly and easily.” SOMGIT soon realized that working with students and their mentors offered unique benefits. The students were very curious about Somalia and asked important questions that helped SOMGIT expand its understanding of appropriate technologies and practices. Thinking “outside the box” helped SOMGIT provide an efficient and profitable water system. With the cash crops produced by irrigation, the construction cost of the entire system will be recouped within two years. The BBE Senior Capstone course involves a team of faculty, with the goal that each student team has a faculty advisor and an industry advisor. We’re especially grateful to have an active industry advisory council—including alumni, employers of our graduates, and other interested companies and agencies—that proposes projects and provides advisors and mentors. Enrollment in the Senior Capstone course produced five teams in 2014, ten teams in 2015, and nine teams in 2016, with an emphasis in environmental, ecological, bioproducts, and food engineering. Previous projects have included work with a local distillery on malting processes, a drying system to increase production of a healthy nut flour in Guatemala, design of water management features at a new state park, compost and fuel options for cabbage waste from egg roll manufacturing, and development of a dryer for small parts at a window manufacturer.
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