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Engineers Without Borders work over winter break

Students help blaze a trail to promote eco-tourism in Honduras

(Syracuse, N.Y.) – “We will focus our efforts on building and updating low-impact, ecologically sound hiking trails for tourist access to Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras,” said State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s (ESF) Matthew Sutton, a junior studying Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering.

Sutton, of Truxton, N.Y., will serve as team leader for the ESF Chapter of Engineers Without Borders 2005-06 club project. During last year’s winter break, EWB members traveled to Dominica where they helped install a micro-hydro turbine to supply electrical power for the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center (see update below).

Eight students, seven from ESF and one from Syracuse University, will make the trip to Honduras, December 29, 2005 through January 16, 2006. The project is organized through MIRA (Manjelo Integrado de los Recursos Ambientales), a U.S. Agency for International Development program working in Honduras. MIRA is providing the tools for the project and the MIRA director is providing riverside housing.

The ESF Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering department and Syracuse University’s Engineering and Computer Science Department will cover travel expenses.

“I am very excited about the trip,” said Kristin Wunsch, Buffalo, a senior at Syracuse University studying biomedical engineering “And I hope to encourage more SU students to join Engineers Without Borders when they see the trails we’re building and repairing in Honduras.”

For many, EWB is part of a long-term plan. Richard Huggins is a junior in Forest Engineering at ESF. Huggins, from Gilbertsville, N.Y., said, “I became interested in EWB as a freshman and have become more heavily involved each year because it’s an opportunity to travel and help make the world a little better.”

“I’ve always thought,” continued Huggins, “that no matter what my career choice was I wouldn’t be happy unless I could use my skills positively.”

Kristy Davila Lazo, a senior at ESF majoring in Conservation Biology, brings an international perspective to the Honduras project as well as experience in designing trails. A resident of Queens, N.Y. since age 13, Lazo was born in Iquitos, Peru, and worked on an ecotourism and conservation project on the island of Dominica.

Plus, Lazo said, “I feel I can be very helpful during our stay in Honduras because I speak fluent Spanish and I have field experience in the tropics of Brazil.”

Second year Master’s student in Landscape Architecture, Daniel McCormick, said, “I got involved in this EWB project through (ESF Associate Professor) Theodore Endreny, who felt my experience working for the past several years on trails for federal and non-profit agencies would be very useful.”

The trip will also be a learning experience for McCormick, from Rochester, who explained, “I’ve never been to Honduras or a similar type place before so I am looking forward to it.”

Mary Gifford, of Athens, N.Y., majoring in Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering, said, “While our short-term goal is trail work, we hope to contribute to a larger cause – promoting ecotourism to help the Honduran economy rebound from a series of devastating hurricanes. In addition, we hope to promote sound natural resource management policies for a sustainable future in Honduras.”

The other members of the EWB Honduras project team include

Daniel Flynn, of Byram, N.J., majoring in Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering and Ronald Sanzo, of Chenango Forks, N.Y., majoring in Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering.

Update on Dominica

Alvin Chan, a student at the University of Vermont during the initial phase of the turbine project and now a graduate student at ESF, along with partners from the UV have made two trips back to the island of Dominica to work on the micro-hydro turbine.

Their work included removing water from the piping that holds the transmission line; renovating the intake tank/filtration system; adding air release valves in the pipeline; fixing leaky joints; and testing the power dynamics. It was discovered that the turbine was only generating about 50% of its 1000-watt capacity.

They also found that flow from the head end (the pool created at the top of the hill) wasn’t as good as first thought. Adjustments were made to the nozzle which increased flow but that didn’t completely solve the problem so the next step will be to change the pulley ratios to take full advantage of the water now flowing down the pipeline.


Release No. 34, December 12, 2005

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