Page 35 - Engineering Penn State Magazine: Fall/Winter 2020
P. 35

 Engineers Without Borders partners with Namutamba community in Uganda
by Ashley WennersHerron
Undergraduate students from the Penn State chapter
of Engineers
Without Borders
have launched a collaboration with the Namutamba community in Uganda to improve the community’s access to potable water.
Under the mentorship of John Regan, professor of environmental engineering, and Brian Thiede, assistant professor of rural sociology, sociology, and demography in the College of Agricultural Sciences, the group signed a five-year partnership agreement with the community and the Mityana Rotary Club, the local branch of the American nonprofit group.
“The goal of this first trip was to lay the groundwork for a long-term partnership with the Namutamba community, as well as commence work aiding the community with water security,” said Noelle Ihanainen, a senior studying environmental systems engineering and president of Penn State’s Engineers Without Borders.
The Namutamba community consists of about 3,900 members in 796 households, but the region as a whole does not have the infrastructure nor the resources in place to maintain a consistent water supply.
During their trip, the students learned that even during the wet season, when water is more available, it is not always safe.
The group spent two days visiting three of the community’s current water sources where they tested the water quality. They will use these
tests as a baseline to track improvement in
water quality throughout their project. With the help of James Ssonko, the local district water engineer, the students met with Henry Kiggundu, a senior hydrogeologist, who helped coordinate a hydrogeological survey to determine if there was water underground. The survey determined water to be located approximately 60 meters underground during Namutamba’s dry season.
The result determined the team’s plan moving forward. They will drill a borehole down to the source, install a pump to extract the groundwater, and distribute it to the community through underground piping where it can then be stored in an elevated tank.
Now, the team members are drafting their technical design for the system, educating new chapter members, and fundraising to support their future work. They plan to return to Uganda after their finals in May 2020 to implement the next steps in the project. n
 Undergraduate students and John Regan, professor of environmental engineering (center, in hat), meet with local district water engineers from Mityana, Uganda, to assess potable water accessibility. (Photo credit: Kyle Pelegrin)

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