Engineers Without Borders - Nicaragua Project

Advisor: Shawna Von Stockhausen
Students: Actively Seeking Students for Project

The reality of life in Nueva Vida, Nicaragua, belies its optimistic name. Most of the 12,000 residents are refugees from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Unemployment is near 80%, and the municipal infrastructure is unreliable at best.

Cal Poly Engineers Without Borders, however, has resolved to help improve conditions in Nueva Vida. EWB dispatched 12 members to the village during Spring Break 2006 to assess the community’s needs.

The team determined that they could have the most impact by redesigning the water storage system for the community health clinic. The clinic, run by Jubilee House Community, has treated more than 10,000 patients since it was created. But the clinic’s water supply is often unreliable and susceptible to disease.

The EWB Cal Poly team, led by Shawna Von Stockhausen, decided to move the water storage underground in order to make better use of gravity and to protect it from contamination.

"The hope is that we will be able to provide them with a steady day of water," said Von Stockhausen. The automated system will take advantage of periods when water is available from the municipal line and store it for times when the supply may be limited.

In November 2006, the team traveled to the village for a second time in order to finalize their design. In July 2007, they will return to Nueva Vida with two pre-fabricated water storage tanks and install them at the health clinic. The team will also be scouting for other potential projects.

EWB Cal Poly plans to continue working with the community of Nueva Vida. "Because so many younger students are involved with this project, there is a lot of long-term potential to help the people there," said Von Stockhausen.

For more information:
Shawna Von Stockhausen