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New members help EWB implement first project

Workers in the distance in a wetland area.

Mizzou Engineers Without Borders members concentrated on a particular wetland treatment cell in the small Central American town of Ciudad España, Honduras.

While many of their classmates headed to tropical, resort locations for Spring Break, seven members of the University of Missouri’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled south to the small Central American town of Ciudad España, Honduras to implement a project three years in the making.

The team implemented an updated design in a wetland treatment cell for an existing wastewater treatment system in the mountainside village.

“A sand filter in the existing cell was clogged, preventing any drainage,” project manager Adam Byrnes said. “The people there cut a hole next to the blockage, which created a flow concentration that killed plants meant to treat static water.”

A man on the left uses a hacksaw with help from another man on the right. A third man stands center, watching as the first two work.

Craig Wilkins (left) works on the wetland treatment cell solution with Cade Robertson (center) and Adam Byrnes.

What resulted was wastewater draining too quickly and entering a river that served as many people’s main water source. Working with more than a dozen local workers, EWB students implemented a design that included a linear filter made with gravel and PVC pipes. They also planted more water filtering foliage — duckweed, cattails and water hyacinths.

This was the fourth trip Mizzou EWB made to the region, following three assessment trips, one each year since 2010. While Byrnes, a mechanical engineering senior, had been on previous EWB trips, this was the first for incoming president Craig Wilkins and incoming project manager Cade Robinson.

“This was a monumental, on-hand experience for student engineers that wouldn’t get to do this until at least 10 years into their careers in industry,” Wilkins, a mechanical engineering junior, said.

Robinson noted that he found the trip rewarding for some additional reasons.

“I love doing this because what we do might be down there for the next 20 years. This is something tangible and a great way to learn,” Robinson said. Once a project is complete, he said EWB keeps in contact with community leaders to help maintain their work.

“That’s part of our sustainability mission,” Robinson said.

A group of nine people stand in a group photo with their hands raised in the air.

Members of Mizzou’s Engineers Without Borders group stand on the newly installed linear filter with some of their contacts from Honduras who worked with them.

Both are new representatives for the next chapter in MU EWB’s mission. Having wrapped the project in Honduras, the senior leaders from the last few years are passing the baton to students, including Wilkins and Robinson, to start new goals and projects for the club.

Members are already looking ahead to their next project, which Wilkins said probably will be in Panama.

“We’re looking at either an accessibility project or a drinking water project,” he said.

Until then, the pair invites students of all majors to join EWB. Those interested in joining can check back in the fall for information on the first meeting.

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