using the real world as your classroom demands that you are right.
When we allow students to serve as design consultants for rural communities in Honduras and Guatemala, we make sure they are well equipped with technical and cultural guidance. We consider five contextual engineering influences to ensure community ownership, long-term durability, mutual benefit, local partner involvement, and investment from all involved parties. This creates a uniquely powerful learning experience for students as they spend the year designing the technical, social, and political aspects of a water distribution system.
What is Iwp?
The International Water Project is a year-long course offered to undergraduate and graduate students through the College of Engineering and Department of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. IWP seeks to develop and implement durable solutions to the water access and quality needs of communities in rural Central America by considering not only technical aspects of the project, but the educational, economic, cultural, and political influences as well.
what do students gain from taking Iwp?
I think my motivation to participate in this project was to gain some experience in engineering design. But so far I have gotten more than that. I think I understand what engineers really do. They need to consider a lot, not only do calculations. Engineers really serve to share their professional skills to improve the communities. And I think that's what I want to do in this project.
-Yang, graduate student in Engineering
This class understands that even though the community from last year and that of this year may be very similar, the approach to the project still needs to be unique in understanding everything about the community. The same approach might not apply to two different locations despite both being projects with similar goals.
-Nina, undergraduate student in Latin American Studies
I had a lot of preconceptions coming into this class. I thought I would come in and design a system, make it the best design and then it would get build. I have since realized that life is not that simple and there is so much more that goes into working in a developing country than the design. I am still incredibly excited about the technical aspect; I just realize that technology does not exist in a vacuum. We have to work with the social and political team because the system faces as much danger of collapsing because of those things as it does as failing technically.
-Mackenzie, undergraduate student in Mechanical Engineering
I think emphasizing the need to consider community and culture made the social and political teams have more weight in the eyes of the class, which contributed to the ultimate success of the project.
-Karolina, graduate student in Political Science
More often than not, especially with manual labor trips, the communities would benefit a ton more if the volunteers just donated the money to the communities and then hired people who actually knew what they were doing to complete the work. This is where I think our project is different. We didn’t go to Honduras to give them our manual skills... We gave them our technological knowledge, something that community did not have.
-Tim, undergraduate student in Civil Engineering