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Ohio State Engineering Students Help Sustain Tanzania

Seeking an opportunity to have a positive impact on society, Maddie Drenkhan was among 35 Ohio State students to travel to Tanzania this year as part of a program to help a village obtain clean water. The Sustainable and Resilient Tanzania Community (SRTC) program is a joint project between the Ohio State University’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, and the people of Marwa, Tanzania (photo: above).

“The coolest part of the experience for me was seeing so many different people come together and work toward one goal,” Drenkhan says. “The project is very slow moving, as all development work is, but I really enjoyed watching students and community members come together to solve problems and come up with ideas.”

Marwa is a traditional Masai community forced to settle in one place due to recent mandates by the Tanzanian government. The SRTC program, which also works closely with the Kilimanjaro Hope Organization (photo: right), seeks to create solutions to the clean water shortages the village faces by fostering relationships and continuing long-term projects centered on designing a clean-water system.

The projects for the May 2017 program included constructing a rainwater harvesting system (photo: below) at the local dispensary (pharmacy), determining if a well could be reinstalled with a solar pump, and designing a modern water treatment system to collect water from the Pangani River, treat it and then distribute it to the village. Students from Ohio State’s College of Engineering and School of Environment and Natural Resources teamed up and worked on different aspects of the program.

In addition to helping with translation, six students and one professor from The University of Dodoma assisted each student team.

In preparation for the trip, the Ohio State students were required to take a spring semester course that included history discussions and Swahili language lessons.

The Office of Energy and Environment, through its student funding program, assisted four of these students with their travel expenses for this trip.

Drenkhan, a senior studying public health with a sociology specialization, worked on the sociological aspect of the program. Her group spent two weeks meeting with women and children in the four subvillages of Marwa — Lesirway, Njaketai, Marwa and Patel — learning about potential business opportunities they may have once it is no longer necessary for them to spend all day collecting water.

Onur Eroglu, a graduate student in civil engineering, worked on gathering information relevant to the treatment sites and distribution points of the water pump system from the Pangani River. Each morning, Eroglu and his group would drive to the villages and do map work to collect data about the terrain.

“One day we were at a subvillage, Patelli, surveying and collecting elevation data, and it started raining. We saw that on rainy days, kids couldn’t even go to school,” Eroglu explains, due to flooding and inadequate roofing. “This made us realize how much they really need our help here, and just treating their water isn’t enough.”

Rachel DuBois, a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and her group were tasked with creating a preliminary design of the treatment system for the collected Pangani river water to bing to the community.

“There is such a sense of selflessness and gratitude that is mutual between the community members of Marwa and the participants from Ohio State,” DuBois says. (Photo: left).

This summer DuBois began working with the United States Peace Corps in Sierra Leone as a hygiene education and water sanitation volunteer. After pursuing an advanced degree, she one day hopes to work for the United Nations.

Patrick Sours, also a recent graduate in civil engineering, worked on the rainwater-harvesting project with his group. This consisted of creating a tank, putting in gutters and using purified rainwater for drinking.

Sours focused on overseeing data collection of the system. Working alongside local tradesmen and engineers, Sours and his team were able to build a 30,000-liter rainwater harvesting system on the Marwa medical dispensary. This fall, Sours will be begin his master’s degree in food, agriculture and biological engineering at Ohio State.

“I made friends and memories that will last a life time,” Sours says. “And most of all, we were able to be part of something larger than ourselves and assist a community that truly deserves it.”

Written by Natalie Michalski, Communications Assistant in the Office of Energy and Environment

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