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Tuesday, April 18, 2006
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Ohio University student travels to Ghana for village improvement project

ATHENS, Ohio (April 18, 2006) -- An international engineering service group is planning a bold project in Africa, and four Ohio University students are proud to be a part of it. Jennifer Phillips, a senior civil engineering major in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University, will travel to the West African country of Ghana this June as part of the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). The Central Ohio Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is sponsoring Phillips' participation.

Phillips will join four other Ohio University students ? Jonathan Bebb and Cy Cost, electrical engineering majors, and T.J. Cyders and Katie Melton, mechanical engineering majors. They will use their engineering expertise to help build better housing for teachers in the village of Maase-Offinso. The village has identified such housing as its most pressing local need. Teacher accommodations need to be adequate to attract and retain qualified teachers in the village, but yet be affordable and self-sustaining. The village's chief, Nana K. Owuso-Kwarteng, recently finished his Ph.D. at Ohio University while working with the Institute of African Child.

According to Susan Coyle, president of ASCE's Central Ohio Section, deciding to sponsor Phillips was easy. "Our board was unanimous in supporting Jennifer. Her willingness to take on this difficult task, to help foster better standards of living in Ghana, and to expand the scope of her engineering experience impressed everyone," Coyle said.

EWB is an important part of a new movement in the United States committed to using technology to improve the human condition where the need is greatest. A recurring problem in villages like Maase-Offinso is the turnover in teacher staff because of the difficult living conditions compared to major urban areas. Specific technical topics include structural layout, materials, climate analysis and control, water supply, energy supply and usage, and sanitation.

EWB's goal is for students to develop an understanding and background of the host community's needs and of the project's separate subsystems. Students will work with members of the host community to develop the project according to design, make field modifications as necessary, implement training programs for the local representatives and perform assessments for past and future projects.

Jeff Giesey, associate professor in the Russ College's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, established the university's EWB chapter in 2004. "The idea is to create students who are more globally aware and get them involved outside the classroom," he said. "The reason I helped start the chapter came from my desire to use the skills and knowledge we have as engineers to help the people in the world who are struggling to meet their most basic needs."

A large part of the world lives without the necessities and amenities that help many U.S. residents lead long, productive and enjoyable lives. Giesey explained that these advantages are the result of applied engineering and the efforts of thousands of engineers. EWB helps developing communities worldwide with engineering needs while teaching engineering students about their problems and how to solve them.

"Because I am also an educator, I wanted to find ways to help develop students who can go out and make a real difference in the lives of people in this way," Giesey said. "I have been amazed at the number of fellow faculty members, students and other engineers who have similar goals and have joined us to work on this project."

The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, educates well-rounded professionals with both technical and team-project skills. The Russ College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees across the traditional engineering spectrum and in technology disciplines such as aviation, computer science and industrial technology. Strategic research areas include bioengineering, energy and the environment, and smart civil infrastructure. Named for alumnus Fritz Russ and his wife Dolores, the Russ College is home of the Russ Prize, one of the top three engineering prizes in the world. For more information, visit www.ohio.edu/engineering.

ASCE's mission is to provide essential value to its members, their careers, its partners and the public by developing leadership, advancing technology, advocating lifelong learning and promoting the profession of civil engineering.

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Media Contact: Dave Pritchard from the American Society of Civil Engineers, (614) 519-4819, Russ College Director of External Relations Colleen Girton, (740) 593-1488 or girtonc@ohio.edu, or Media Specialist Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu

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