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Service Learning Project In Brazil: From Concept To Reality

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Sustainable Engineering

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1122.1 - 11.1122.6



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Paper Authors


Janet Baldwin Roger Williams University

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Janet L. Baldwin is an assistant professor in Roger Williams University's general engineering program. Her current research interests include wastewater reuse technologies and service learning in engineering. She is currently active in Girl Scouts and engineering outreach activities for girls. Dr. Baldwin received a B.S. in engineering from Tufts University in 1988. She earned graduate degrees from The Pennsylvania State University: an M.S. in Environmental Engineering in 1994 and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering in 1999.

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

Service Learning Project in Brazil: From Concept to Reality Abstract Environmental engineers are uniquely positioned to make a significant contribution towards improving the human condition in underdeveloped areas. A sabbatical leave provides an excellent opportunity for faculty to apply their knowledge to benefit humanity as well as experience the challenges of engineering in underdeveloped areas of the world. My sabbatical project is to join an effort in Brazil to bring adequate drinking water to an area beset by drought and poverty. The Brazilian Rotary Club, Campinas Alvorada, has an ongoing project to install water tanks and low-tech filters in households in Chapada do Norte. This project presents considerable challenges for the engineer, but the benefits are many: learning first–hand the challenges involved in implementing technology in an under-developed region, enriching the classroom experience through the knowledge gained, and fostering greater understanding of engineering in a global setting. This paper relates the steps necessary to actually make the project happen: applying for sabbatical, procuring funding, arranging travel and living arrangements, getting the necessary travel documents, and performing the preliminary research of low tech treatment alternatives.

I. Description of Project

In May, 2006, I will spend approximately one month in Chapada do Norte, Brazil, assisting in an effort to bring adequate drinking water to an area beset by drought. Due to a complex series of circumstances exacerbated by the destruction of the rainforest, the area has severe water shortage problems during the dry season. The city has a population of 17,000, and is one of the poorest in the state of Minas Gerais. Historically, agriculture has been the main economic activity, but today, many men leave the region to work in sugar cane farms in Sao Paulo. Women remain behind, taking care of the fields and children, but they have inadequate medical and dental care. From May to November, when there is little rain, many people must walk miles to get sufficient water and carry enough for the household and farm animals.

Because the financial resources of the people of Minas Gerais are so limited, cost-effective rainfall catchment systems have been chosen for the proposed solution to the water supply problem. Rainfall catchment systems have enjoyed increasing popularity internationally, especially in similar dry climates with low population densities. Rainwater can provide a relatively safe source of water for a range of purposes including drinking, washing, bathing, and gardening. For example, in South Australia, 37% of the population uses rainwater as a source of drinking water [1].

While in Brazil, I will be working directly with an engineer from the Brazilian Rotary Club of Campinas Alvorada. I will assist the installation of the rainfall catchment systems and the evaluation of the suitability of the systems. The systems consist of catchment and delivery, storage, and filtration units. Of primary concern with this project is the ability to store a sufficient quantity of water to overcome the water deficit during the dry season. In addition, the systems must be inexpensive, easy to maintain and operate, and provide water that is drinking- water quality even after extended storage time.

Baldwin, J. (2006, June), Service Learning Project In Brazil: From Concept To Reality Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--800

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