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Designing to make a difference

Students to install solar-powered water pump in Ghana
Mar 22, 2010
By Mary Reed

When a community in Ghana lost power to its water pump, its 5,000 residents had to revert to transporting water by hand and lost its income from providing spring water to residents and neighboring villages.

Senior mechanical engineering students in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University will be adding their helping hands to the village this summer when they install a solar-powered water pumping system they developed.

"Team Pump It Up" is just one of many mechanical engineering senior design course teams operating under this year's theme, "Designing to Make a Difference." 

For all engineering majors, the senior design project is a quarter- to year-long capstone course in which teams of students design, test and build engineering solutions to real-life problems. Those in the mechanical engineering sequence are working with real clients to provide solutions.

"We look for projects that are truly what I call integrative learning experiences, where students have an opportunity to apply how to do engineering, but also in the context of how to be an engineer," said Greg Kremer, associate professor of mechanical engineering and technical project lead on the project. 

Kremer said one of the aspects of how to be an engineer is the aspect of service to society. 

"They see themselves in their roles as engineers -- as solvers of important problems," he said. "It can really change the course of a student's whole career ? whole life ? if he or she really enters into it."

The project, which will be completed in the Ghanaian village of Maase-Offinso in July, is a collaboration with the Ohio University chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA.

EWB-USA connects engineers with local communities in developing countries to complete engineering projects that provide clean water, power and sanitation. The organization considers itself a catalyst for bringing up a generation of socially conscious engineers.

This includes engineers-to-be like senior Nick Stormer, team leader for Team Pump It Up.

"I think it's my responsibility as an engineer to use my educational foundation toward a more advanced, stable society," Stormer said.

The students' water pump design includes a 20-panel, 4.2 kilowatt-hour array that will power two pumps capable of pumping 10,000 gallons of water per day to nearby storage tanks.

"We've actually sourced most of our materials in Ghana," said Stormer, who will board a plane for Africa with his teammates and the 3-inch by 4-feet pumps that they couldn't find closer to Maase-Offinso.

Unlike most teams who complete senior design projects, Team Pump It Up is fund raising for its efforts. The estimated cost of the solar pumping system and travel costs is $51,000.

Along with support from the Russ College dean's office, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and engineering consulting company Belcan, the team is applying for more than $10,000 in grants through EWB and is appealing to private donors for the remaining balance of approximately $13,000.

The Ohio University chapter of EWB-USA, which has had a relationship with Maase-Offinso since 2006, plans to monitor the system to make sure it continues to function properly.

For more information on the project, click here.

You can support Ohio University students and a community in Africa by making a gift to this senior design project. For details, contact The Ohio University Foundation at 800-592-FUND or giving@ohio.edu. Checks may be made payable to The Ohio University Foundation (be sure to write "Water Pump" in the notes section) and sent to the foundation at P.O. Box 869, Athens, Ohio 45701. Gifts also can be made online at www.ohio.edu/give.


Related Links:
Mechanical Engineering

Published: Mar 22, 2010 7:00 AM


Ohio University Engineers Without Borders members with the people of Maase-Offinso in 2006. The group was there to build teacher accommodations.


Children of the village who will benefit from the new water pumping system.

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