Three UConn engineering students are working in partnership with a village in Ethiopia to help improve the water supply.
During winter break, the three students, who are all members of the UConn chapter of Engineers Without Borders, traveled to the village to begin surveying for a project to improve the community’s water infrastructure.
The village, called the Woreta Zuria Administrative Kebele, has an extensive dry season, lasting nine months of the year. The residents depend on agricultural production for their livelihood, and this year is particularly difficult for them, because of the drought that Ethiopia is experiencing.
“The community we’re working in is entirely relying on agriculture for sustenance,” says Kristin Burnham ’19 (ENG, CLAS), a double major in environmental engineering and molecular and cell biology.
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A $4.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation will allow University of Connecticut researchers to collaborate with colleagues around the world in order to help local governments and communities in Ethiopia’s Blue Nile river basin better manage their agricultural and water resources.
The funds, released today, come from NSF’s Partnerships in International Research and Education or PIRE program.
“This grant will position the University of Connecticut as a global leader in the multidisciplinary field of water and food security,” says Provost Mun Choi. “We particularly value the quality of scientific and cultural exchanges that are made possible through the PIRE program for students, faculty, and researchers from UConn, Ethiopia, and other international universities.”
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By William Weir, School of Engineering
Engineers play a major role in developing cell phones, but what responsibility do they have to consider the origin of the materials the phone is made of? Conversely, can they take credit for how the cell phone can protect African farmers from being swindled?
To address issues such as these, the School of Engineering and the Human Rights Institute have created a track of courses within UConn’s human rights minor that explores the social aspects of engineering, including energy, infrastructure, and water resources management.
“We looked to develop courses that contextualize human rights concepts and theories in an engineering practice,” says Shareen Hertel, associate professor of political science and human rights. “We on the human rights side found it really advantageous to reach out to the students who were going to do work with serious human rights implications but hadn’t thought about it that way before.”
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