AU group plans trips to Bolivia to make infrastructure improvements

Published: Feb 4, 2010 1:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Ed Enoch, cenoch@oanow.com,

The Auburn University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders will make two trips during the next two summers to Quesimpuco, Bolivia, where students will help build infrastructure in the remote town.

Students gathered in the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology on Thursday to hear a presentation about the town in the Andes Mountains where they will put their engineering know-how to use.

The preliminary trip will be from Aug. 4 to 10 and consist of an assessment team which will identify projects, chapter president Andy Todd said.

Will McCartney, a civil engineering junior and vice president of the Auburn chapter, said the group will partner with the Southern Institute for Appropriate Technology (SIFAT), a faith-based group working to bring technology and skills to remote communities to improve the quality of life. The trip, which will cost about $2,500 per student, will be funded by donations and partial payments by students, McCartney said.

After the preliminary trip, the chapter will return and plan the project which will be built, for the most part, by inhabitants of Quesimpuco, McCartney said, adding it’s important that the inhabitants do the initial work because they will be responsible for maintaining it.

Tom Corson, executive director of SIFAT, said much of the work in Quesimpuco has focused on developing reproducible and sustainable technology the inhabitants can maintain through ingenuity and on-hand supplies.

Benjo Paredes, a Quesimpuco native who will act as an adviser, spoke of the hardships on the verge of civilization and stressed the need for simple solutions born out of materials on hand. 

Glenn Glover, who has been a part of missionary trips from Auburn United Methodist, said the extreme environment and remote location are especially challenging. 

"It's easy to come in and take technology and stick it there, but to go in and use your engineering skills and design something that works — that's the challenge," Glover said.