They Simply Refused to Fail
Schoolchildren in the Dominican Republic needed clean water. UNH engineering students knew how to make it happen.

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FIRST TASTE: Environmental engineering student Alexander Rozycki '12, above, pours drinking water produced by the new filtration system.

In the village schools of Cumayasa in the Dominican Republic the water is now safe to drink.

Until recently, that wasn't the case. Students brought in juice boxes. A few had hydration packs, or water bladders. Much of the time, they were thirsty.

The schools' water supply comes from a treatment plant in the nearby city of La Romana. But it's not drinking water. It's contaminated, and known to cause waterborne diseases such as cholera, hepatitis and E. coli. If anyone drank from the tap—and sometimes the children did drink—they usually got sick.

But during spring break in March, five UNH civil and environmental engineering students helped add a purification system to the schools' water source. They used filters and PVC pipes and a type of chlorine similar to that found in household bleach. And when they were done, everyone took a drink of the water.

"The kids were so happy to actually be able to drink the water," says Tad Robertson '12, project director for the team. "You could tell that they were hesitant at first, but after we all drank it, they did, too."

Emily Carlson '12 says the project bridged the gap between the academic concepts of water treatment they learned in classrooms and the real-life water issues faced by millions of people around the world. "Most of the lessons I learned on this trip were not of the engineering sort, but the kind someone discovers when opening their mind to a new culture," she says. "I met some of the most dedicated people, dedicated to their work, to their families and to their country's future."

Dominican Republic
Kayla Mineau '13 with new friends.

The first phase, done last year as a senior capstone project by a different group of engineering students, provided the preliminary concept and a feasibility study.

The system itself was created as the capstone project for Robertson, Carlson, Ransom Horner-Richardson '12, Harrison Roakes '12 and Alexander Rozycki '12. They got help from Kayla Mineau '12 of Students Without Borders and civil engineering faculty members M. Robin Collins, Kevin Gardner, Nancy Kinner '80G, '83G and James Malley.

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