Pratt Students Tackle Tsunami Damages
|Water works: seniors Tyler
Brown, left, and Jim Garnevicus restore shrimp hatcheries in
photo: Matt Edmundson
Five engineering students from Duke's Pratt School of Engineering
spent part of their summer in Indonesia repairing shrimp hatcheries
damaged by the 2004 tsunami and helping villagers stabilize an
airstrip to prevent erosion. The Lord Foundation and Pratt provided
support for the two projects, which were conducted in collaboration
with local nongovernmental organizations.
The Pratt team--civil-engineering seniors Jean Foster, Jim Garnevicus,
and Emily Wren; biomedical/mechanical-engineering senior Tyler
Brown; and Deirdre McShane B.S.E. '05, who majored in civil engineering--spent
two-and-a-half weeks in Indonesia in August. They were accompanied
by David Schaad, adjunct assistant professor of civil and environmental
The projects were part of a student-led effort to launch an Engineers
Without Borders chapter at Duke, and to provide engineering students
with year-round opportunities for hands-on engineering experience
and a chance to help others. The emphasis for both projects was
to use locally available materials to create sustainable technologies.
The students first traveled to the northwest coast of Sumatra,
Indonesia, where they worked to restore local shrimp hatcheries.
Using materials at hand--including PVC pipes and rope--they adapted
a prototype for a wind-powered mechanical aerator based on a design
developed and tested at Duke by a larger student team.
The students also helped villagers reinforce eroding hatchery walls
made of dirt by designing and building a retaining wall out of
plentiful palm fronds, bamboo, and fishing nets.
The students' second project involved stabilizing an airstrip in
a remote and mountainous area on the island of Papua. The engineers
showed villagers how to construct "rock boxes" to prevent
erosion and runoff, and where to place them.
Engineers Without Borders, a five-year-old Colorado-based nonprofit,
links engineering students and professionals with disadvantaged
communities in the U.S. and abroad to undertake environmentally
and economically sustainable engineering projects that will improve
the quality of life in those communities. Foster says she had been
thinking about starting a chapter at Duke for a long time and visited
the organization's headquarters during her winter break last year.
When she returned in the spring, she began talking to McShane about
the potential for getting something started on campus.
They quickly compiled an e-mail list of more than seventy interested
students and faculty members that included Schaad and faculty adviser
Dan Vallero, an adjunct professor of engineering ethics, and put
together plans for their first project.
The tsunami recovery and rebuilding effort provided a natural entrÈe.
"The tsunami has really galvanized interest in sustainable
development in engineering," Schaad says. "EWB encourages
students to look at engineering projects and the world in a new
way. Design engineers have to fit the appropriate solution to the
problem, and that's why low-tech solutions are frequently the best
solutions--they are easy to implement and sustainable. Students
will have to look beyond the boundaries of the U.S. and preconceived
ideas of how technology should be used."