Subscribe to Gonzaga University's News Service RSS Feed
GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|GU Faculty, Students Provide W. African Relief|
Education for a Thirsty Planet!
The interdisciplinary Gonzaga educational group raised most of the funds for the trip themselves and had a few individual donors. The initiative received a $10,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for design work when the group can use upon returning to the Spokane, Wash.-campus on Aug. 18. Project partners in the effort include the Songhai Center for Sustainable Development ( Benin), Engineers Without Borders-USA, Potters Without Borders, and Rotary International-Spokane Club 21. The group is scheduled to arrive in Benin on Sunday, Aug. 5.
Spearheading the effort is Gonzaga civil engineering Associate Professor Brad Striebig. The other Gonzaga faculty heading to Benin are nursing Professor Susan Norwood, and Mary Jeannot, associate professor and director of the Gonzaga master’s program in Teaching English as a Second Language and the English Language Center. The 17 Gonzaga graduate and undergraduate students on the trip represent the disciplines of education, engineering, nursing, English as a second language, and broadcasting.
This effort seeks to improve the production process for drinking water filters at the Songhai Center in Porto-Novo, Benin. A manufacturing process to produce ceramic drinking water filters will be implemented during part of this Gonzaga University course taught at the Songhai Center. As part of this course, students will study the economic, engineering and social variables that make access to potable water challenging in Benin.
Students will analyze the results of data collected to make improvements to the drinking water manufacturing and marketing process during the coming (2007-2008) academic year. For example, students in civil and mechanical engineering will design a solid bio-fuel feed system to fire the drying kiln for the ceramics and activated carbon used in the drinking water filters. Students in the language, education and nursing programs will develop socially responsible educational materials to help market affordable point-of-use water filters in Benin.
Health assessments, educational materials and technical data will be used as metrics to measure success of the project. As part of the ongoing collaboration between the Songhai Center and Gonzaga, a multi-year health assessment and epidemiological study will be started with this program and continued in future years to access the implementation process. This study is anticipated to last four or more years.
A ceramic filter (called a Filtrón) effectively removes biological contaminants from drinking water. The group will use activated carbon manufactured from indigenous coconut shell wastes, byproducts of agricultural production at the Songhai Center, to increase the effectiveness of the filter.
These ceramic filters can be economically manufactured at the Songhai Center. Community-focused projects, such as this one, directly address the U.N. goal to halve the number of people without access to clean water or sanitation by 2015. The effectiveness, low cost, and ease of use make these technologies fully sustainable and ideal for point of use treatment of drinking water in developing countries.
A strategy to implement the technology has been identified with the project partners. Since 2004, students in the Gonzaga Chapter of Engineers Without Borders have learned how to make and even improve the performance of the proposed drinking water filters. Water from Benin that is treated with the proposed filters will meet World Health Organization (WHO) criteria for drinking water.
The water filters will improve water quality for an estimated cost of $8 to $15 ( U.S. currency) per family. A study previously conducted on Benin high school students suggested exposure to pathogens would decrease by six to nine orders of magnitude every day if they were provided with adequate water and sanitation. By providing the tools for the people of Benin to initiate and implement their own sustainable methods for survival and disease eradication, the project partners expect the people will embrace the proposed technology.
Furthermore, this technology is transferable to other developing nations such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. The successful demonstration of the manufacturing process requires a multidisciplinary approach.
WATER (West African Appropriate Technology, Education, and Reciprocity) is the name of the interdisciplinary course offered by Gonzaga in partnership with the Songhai Center in Benin. The WATER course that the students on the trip are taking has a three-part focus: cross cultural training and in-depth study of West African culture, study of health conditions and health promotion in developing countries, and epidemiological research designs and their practical application using appropriate technologies for eradicating water-related illnesses in Benin.
The students will work in multidisciplinary project teams and use course content as the foundation for developing and implementing educational materials. This course is a service-learning course and addresses issues of social justice in West Africa, including but not limited to health interventions, discussions of contemporary Third World development, and a critical examination of political and economic conditions affecting individual and population health in “periphery” nations.
Potters Without Borders and Rotary International are collaborating with Gonzaga to coordinate, build and fire a filter kiln and produce affordable filters in conjunction with the WATER class.
Health assessments, educational materials and technical data will be used as metrics to measure the success of the project. As part of the ongoing collaboration between the Songhai Center and Gonzaga University, a longitudinal health assessment and epidemiological study will be started with this program and continued in future years to access the implementation process, this study is anticipated to last four or more years.
To preview some of the work Gonzaga will be doing in Benin, click the following link for a slideshow of pictures from Benin and the water filter manufacturing process. More information about the Songhai Center, Gonzaga’s partner in Benin, can be found at its Web site.
For more information, contact the GU School of Engineering and Applied Science at (509) 323-3522.
|Click here for more info|