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SUNY-ESF Students Install Hydroelectric Generator on Caribbean Island

imageEngineers Without Borders travel to Dominica

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Dave White
(315) 470-6647

Students from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse traveled to the Caribbean island of Dominica[1] over winter break to help install a micro-hydro turbine to supply electricity for the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center. The five students are members of the SUNY-ESF chapter of Engineers Without Borders and paid their own way to participate in the project. They worked with two students from the University of Vermont chapter of EWB and nine students from State College in Dominica. The long-range goal is to help reduce Dominica’s reliance on expensive diesel-powered electric generating plants by taking advantage of the abundant rainfall and large number of rivers.

The demonstration project at Archbold Center tapped a stream running through the property. A concrete intake was constructed on the side of the hill and water was directed through 600 feet of PVC pipe, dropping 140 feet into the micro-hydro turbine, spinning the turbine to generate electricity. Then the water is returned to the stream. During construction, the students conducted workshops for government representatives and managers of area resorts.

SUNY-ESF EWB chapter President Mary Gifford, a senior studying Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering offered a glimpse of what the work was like in an e-mail message January 7th. “Today started out rough. It rained all night, which was nice to sleep to, but in the morning we saw the results in our sloped trail down to the outtake. It was a mudslide! We spent the day slipping and sliding … while carrying a collective half ton of sand and a few more cinder blocks to finish off the foundation.”

A day earlier, SUNY-ESF sophomore/junior Megan Scott said she was very pleased by the amount of work they’ve been able to do: “Today … we had nine State College (those are the Dominican students) students helping our group of seven, and we were able to carry down 40 cinder blocks, five large bags of sand, start building the foundation, and even lay out 23 lengths of PVC piping all along the route. Very successful indeed! The students and our group have been working very well together, not stopping until it's dark out and we can't work anymore.”

The installation of the micro-hydro turbine was 99 percent complete when the SUNY-ESF students had to leave Dominica January 15th. They arrived December 31st and started their work. It will be completed during spring break.

The Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center is directed by a consortium of colleges and universities, SUNY-ESF and Syracuse University are charter members because of their strong connections to philanthropist John D. Archbold. SUNY-ESF offers a three-credit course on Tropical Ecology, the field portion taught in Dominica during spring break.

Dominica, a former British colony, is about 2400 miles from Syracuse, located north of Barbados and south of Antigua, part of the windward islands that separate the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean.

Engineers Without Borders was formed in 2000 by Civil Engineering faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder to help install a water delivery system in San Pablo, Belize. Since then chapters have been organized at a number of colleges and universities around the United States. The EWB chapter at SUNY-ESF was formed two years ago. For more information see www.ewb-usa.org.

The SUNY-ESF students are: Mary Gifford of Albany, Megan Scott of Dunkirk, David Norton of Camden, Ayana Douglas of Nyack and Peter Simpson of Elbridge. Prior to the trip two of the students did interviews with WAER and WRVO radio, during their stay on Dominica several were interviewed by phone on WSYR and WFBL radio, then following their return they were on WSYR and WIXT television.

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