Water Project Conveys Deeper Meaning for LMU Students

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A water conveyance system will incalculably change lives at a school for the blind in Malawi. The effect on the undergraduates at the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering who are designing and building the system is equally profound. Three Loyola Marymount University students traveled this past summer to the Republic of Malawi to begin the process of building a water conveyance system at the Malingunde School for the Blind. The trip marked LMU’s first project with Engineers Without Borders which travels on goodwill missions. LMU started its chapter of Engineers Without Borders with the hope of traveling twice a year to projects in Third World countries. The project is now in the design phase. Jeremy Pal, assistant professor of civil engineering and environmental science and an adviser for the LMU-EWB chapter, said the students are excited and hopeful. They have come up with two designs: one that uses a ram pump that requires no external source of energy; and one that employs a more standard pump and treatment system that requires electricity to run. Once the design is set and before construction can begin, the LMU students need to have the water system approved by Engineers Without Borders. Then, sometime this summer, an LMU crew will travel to Malawi to construct the system.
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“More than a billion people worldwide lack access to clean water and sanitation, leading to millions of premature deaths every year, most of which are children … I feel proud that LMU engineering students are making a difference to those who aren’t as fortunate as we are,” Pal said. In addition to the engineering education the students are getting, they are being introduced to new culture. “The cultural experience has been eye-opening,” Pal said. He said that the school where the water system will be built is often the subject during weekly meetings of the group. During the initial assessment trip, the Rotary Club of Lilongwe, which hosted the students and is a collaborator on the project, gave the students T-shirts that read “Tsungu” — meaning “white person” — because it is so rare for outsiders to go there. James Clements, a junior mechanical engineering major, spent dozens of hours talking to Malawi officials to get government approval for this project. “I believe if you have the ability to do good in the world, then you have an ethical responsibility to do so,”he said.