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Key Experiences In Developing A Sustainable Water Distribution And Filtration Project In Rural Honduras: A New Paradigm In “Service Learning”

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Service - Learning Projects

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.826.1 - 13.826.14



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Paper Authors


Mansour Rahimi University of Southern California

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Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Viterbi School of Engineering

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Alex John USC

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Key Experiences in Developing a Sustainable Water Distribution and Filtration Project in Rural Honduras: A New Paradigm in “Service Learning”


The University of Southern California chapter of “Engineers Without Borders” (EWB- USC) was formed in the fall of 2006. Within six months of its charter approval, the chapter obtained, assessed, and began raising funds for a water project in the village of La Estanzuela, Honduras. Since the village has no electricity, the design process began with a ram-pump to transport water from a nearby waterfall to a tank at the center of the village. A number of tasks were defined for the assessment trip, which was taken in March 2007. Technical measurements included terrain GPS samples, river flow rates and multiple water samplings and testing. A preliminary system design was formulated, and a community health survey was administered. The data are being analyzed to finalize system design and establish baseline health and water quality measurements. Planning for a final assessment trip in March of 2008 has also been finalized. EWB-USC is partnering this effort with a number of humanitarian organizations, and the International Rotary Organization’s “Decade of Water Improvement” to provide some of the supplies and equipments for this project.

This paper highlights the key experiences in organizational development, project funding, trip planning, assessment trip and lays out a five-year project plan for our future efforts. The hope is that through exposure to these experiences, other newly formed EWB student organizations will plan for their activities in a more efficient and responsive way.

1. Laying the Foundation

The programmatic goal of EWB-USC is to provide students with a life changing experience that propels them on a professional trajectory of social entrepreneurialism, activism and sustainable technological development. Fostering the development of such a unique experience within the traditional engineering education paradigm has been a trying process. The many challenges have ranged from organizational, to technical, and even interpersonal. Yet, the outcomes so far have been greatly rewarding both educationally and professionally, and have shown great promise for accomplishing the goals of the project.

2. Background

Students Nate Houk, Kyle Siegel, Leah Glynn, and Meghan Grey founded the University of Southern California’s chapter of “Engineers Without Borders” (EWB-USC) in the fall of 2006. Initial interest for EWB-USC was modest and only four students met regularly with the guidance of the faculty advisor. Group meetings were entirely voluntary, as it is required by the USC’s guidelines for extracurricular student organizations. From a group membership perspective, the initial team included only one environmental engineer and no civil engineers – the very students whose expertise were closely mirrored by the project they later selected. While there was a fear of relative lack of broad-based technical expertise, the team was enthusiastic and

Rahimi, M., & John, A. (2008, June), Key Experiences In Developing A Sustainable Water Distribution And Filtration Project In Rural Honduras: A New Paradigm In “Service Learning” Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3497

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