This summer marks the third trip to Naluja, Zambia, our partner community, and exciting progress for our chapter of Engineers Without Borders at BU. As we approach our August 2014 Implementation Trip, the travel team begins their preparation in anticipation of spending over two weeks in Zambia. This trip provides an invaluable opportunity to immerse in a different culture in order to understand the community’s needs and then provide for their needs with our sustainable projects. Over the past year, both the cell signal amplification and water-sanitation projects have seen much progress and project development, a testament to our dedicated members and technical groups. Our focus on this trip is a Pilot Implementation for our filtration system and second Implementation for the cell amplification project. The travel team will embark on their journey to Zambia August 11th and return the 27th!
Our water-tech group made great strides with the filtration project this year and hopes to continue this success with water testing this summer. Next year’s E-board Vice President, Kayla Trexler, helped by providing Agar plates to compare water from the Charles River with water filtered by one of our prototyped Biosand filters. The summer plan is to get a fully functioning Biofilm layer on top of the filter—this layer is the most important part of the filtration process as it removes much of the bacteria present in the water. Water must be continuously added to the filter each day as the Biofilm layer forms as it requires continuous moisture to grow a microenvironment for bacteria to flourish. This aspect of the design will be a focus of education workshops with local members of the community and will therefore require close monitoring from our travel prep team.
As for the Cell Signal Antenna, this summer will be used for testing active boosters and considering the best way to get the most gain from the antenna. This summer’s trip will see great change from last year’s Yagi antenna system, replacing the passive system with a more functionally consistent active booster device. The improved design will use solar panels to provide an energy source for the active boosters, thereby preserving its sustainable features. But, with two main weather seasons present in Naluja—dry and wet—the dry season will see great use of the solar panels while the wet season brings threats of lightning to the antenna. Clearly, the summer months will be used to finalize the Signal Amplification design and to anticipate any obstacles the group may come across in country. The team is very excited to implement this device in the local health clinic where phone service is essential to communicating with patients and returning HIV test results to the mothers of newborns, as part of CGHD’s Project Mwana. To learn more about Project Mwana check out this link: http://unicefinnovation.org/projects/project-mwana.
Moving from the projects to the team itself: our travel team consists of three Boston University students and two mentors, one for the Cell Amplification Project and one for the Biosand Water Filtration Project. We are happy to announce the selection of Joshua Das and Balaji Kamakoti as this year’s tech mentors who will both be helping lead the group in Zambia this August. Of the students prepping for implementation abroad, Lauren Etter and Scott Nickelsberg are rising sophomores, while Donovan Guttieres is a rising junior and this coming year’s E-Board President. The preparation is quite time-consuming as each member needs to apply for a Visa, get vaccinations, and fully understand the construction process for both projects. Yet, the process will pay off because, as Donovan puts it, “successfully implementing our two current projects will hopefully initiate improvements in the community and education programs that will make our local partners self-dependent in order to expand projects on a community wide scale over the next few generations.”
Lauren shares what she anticipates will be the most exciting part of the implementation trip:
“I am most looking forward to meeting and interacting with the community on this trip. What we do at Engineers Without Borders is a collaborative effort, and being able to meet the community that we’ve been working with for the past several years is going to be surreal. I am really looking forward to it!”
While Scott looks forward to “seeing our protoypes become functional tools” in addition to “see[ing] the impact our projects have on the health of the community,” he also foresees trials ahead:
“I think our greatest challenge will be adapting to whatever does not go according to our pre-trip plans. We will be in an unfamiliar environment with few resources and limited time on site, so we will have to think carefully and quickly about how to approach whatever problems arise.”
No matter the challenges, the team will be working all summer to finalize each project, prepare for life in Zambia, and bond with their team members in order to travel as a cohesive and well-informed group while proudly representing BU and our EWB chapter abroad.They are representatives of our chapter and will serve as an extension of our group’s efforts and contributions from the past year as we envision more progress in our Naluja Community Health Program.
We wish our travel team the best of luck on their trip this August! Special thank you to all members of the prep team and generous partners who will assist the group throughout the summer and ensure its success! Stay tuned for more updates on the trip as it unfolds!