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>  News Releases >   2005 >   November

Student engineers at Dartmouth tackle global issues

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 11/22/05 • Contact Susan Knapp (603) 646-3661

Hannah Murnen and Tia Hansen
Murnen (left) and Hansen are the co-presidents of the Dartmouth chapter of Engineers Without Borders. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Hannah Murnen, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2006, is an engineering major who would like to find a career with a broad purpose. Tia Hansen, who graduated from Dartmouth in 2005 and will receive her B.E. from Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering in 2006, is interested in environmentally sustainable development.

As members of the Dartmouth chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA, they've been able turn their goals into real-world work experience. The D-EWB connects them with projects that have an impact in the developing world. Established in 2003 at the Thayer School, the group has, so far, worked on two projects: one in Siuna, Nicaragua, the other in Nyamilu, Kenya. Both involved facilitating access to clean drinking water. A third project in Tajikistan next year will also tackle clean water issues.

Murnen, who plans to pursue a B.E. at Thayer School after graduation, and Hansen are the current co-presidents of D-EWB, and they love the hands-on engineering experience. They say that being involved in the group is great for improving their project management, fundraising, and networking skills. Plus, they get to work with professional engineers. For the Kenya project, they worked with Brian Klett, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 1989 who works for Malcolm Pirnie, an environmental engineering and consulting firm.

"We knew nothing about drilling wells or water purification before this project," says Hansen, who traveled to Nyamilu, Kenya, in the summer of 2005. "Months before we even went to Kenya, Brian helped us develop a viable design for a solar-powered pump."

Once on the ground in Kenya, the group of nine students plus Klett worked with the community of Nyamilu on implementing their plans. They surveyed the site and talked with representatives from the local Ministry of Water to determine the best location for the well. Then it was back to Nairobi, a seven-hour drive, to obtain permits, negotiate drilling contracts, and purchase supplies, like solar panels and a float switch for the pump.

In Nyamilu, the Dartmouth team oversaw the drilling of a 98-meter bore hole, and then they installed a pump and connected it to solar panels. During the project, the students met with members of the community. They trained people on how to use the equipment and how to test for water quality. A second phase of the project, to be completed by students from the Louisiana State University chapter of EWB, involves building a holding tank and developing a system for distribution.

Lee Lynd, engineering professor and the faculty advisor to D-EWB, says, "I find the work the students are doing to be an important opportunity to explore the interface between engineering and societal service. This interface is an important aspect of engineering practice and is an important motivator for many engineers, and has often been discussed as a particular focus at the Thayer School. It has been delightful to see this student-initiated organization take root and grow."

Murnen's advice for anyone who thinks this sounds like fun: "Don't be intimidated by the word 'engineer'," she says. "You don't need to be an engineer to participate; you just need to be willing to learn."

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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