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Photo Essay: Duke Engineers for International Development in 2015

Duke student teams worked with communities in Uganda, Honduras, Rwanda and Costa Rica

Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) is a student organization that sends student-led groups to locations around the globe to assess and implement engineering projects that spur development. After working with communities to identify their needs, the teams collaborate with professors and professional mentors during the school year to design solutions that are implemented in the following summer.

In 2015, four teams went abroad to help construct a variety of engineering needs in communities in Uganda, Honduras, Rwanda and Costa Rica. From clean-cooking stoves to the construction of a bridge over an often-flooded river bed, these students helped make a direct difference in the lives of hundreds of people.

Read more about their projects below and see some of their handiwork below.

In Uganda, students worked with local engineers and construction crews to design and build a new primary school building. They learned that sometimes all the planning in the world can’t fully prepare you when they discovered the site of the building had moved from a flat plain to the side of a hill.

Duke engineering students pose with project leaders in the Ugandan countryside.

In Honduras, the engineering team dug trenches for hundreds of feet of PVC pipe to create a treatment system for greywater—water that hasn’t touched human waste but has been used for activities such as dishwashing and bathing. In some cases, the best way to move materials and people is a zip line traversing a river.

The PVC pipe system eventually led to this water treatment ditch. Water runs through several layers of different types of gravel and soil, which, with the help of surrounding plants, cleans the water.

In Rwanda, Duke engineers teamed with Bridges to Prosperity to design and construct a 45-meter-long bridge across a river bed that often floods. Below the hanging footpath you can see the previous solution—a log bridge that was often damaged, dangerous and swept away several times a year.

Engineering students from Duke pose while testing the strength of the concrete used to secure the bridge moorings. They’re quite happy despite having to carry several tons of rock by hand more than a quarter of a mile from the nearest roadside.

In Costa Rica, students helped construct 10 clean-cook stoves for local residents. Cooking over open flames without proper ventilation was leading to many in the community falling ill from the fumes.

The Duke team helped educate the local population on the need for clean-cook stoves and taught them how to build the devices themselves.

For the first time in its history, DEID is tackling a problem right here in Durham. During the course of the school year, the team will design and construct traps to reduce the buildup of garbage in Ellerbe Creek, which is currently removed manually by volunteers every six months.

One design is a floating trip that sits in the middle of the water and collects buoyant waste as it travels down the creek. The team plans on deploying their design during Spring Break at a nearby golf course, where they will have easy access to monitor and maintain the trap.