A group of students and faculty members from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering have spent the past three weeks in Cusco, Peru as part of the University of Louisville’s annual International Service Learning Program (ISLP).
The ISLP features a multi-disciplinarian gathering of students working to solve a problem in a foreign culture. Past trips have been to Belize, Botswana, Croatia, the Philippines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Peru ISLP trip was established in part through a relationship with the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development. AASD is an organization that puts academics and indigenous cultures together to share and collaborate. The students are working on a water project.
“What we’re trying to do is to figure out what we can reasonably do to help them and what the community can accomplish,” said Thomas Rockaway, professor in the civil and environmental engineering department and director for the Center for Infrastructure Research, who is leading the team.
Michael Keibler and Mary Andrade in Speed’s Co-op and Career Development Office, initiated the trip to increase the number of global opportunities for engineering students. This coincides with the development of a global engineering track for co-op students that launches this fall.
“This is truly a community-based service learning experience and immerses our students in Peruvian cultures, lifestyles, and guides them on how to critically think about the engineering aspects of global problem-framing and solving,” said Keibler. “We are excited about the collaborative effort with the AASD and look to continue to build on the community relationship, and ISLP relationship, for many years to come.”
For Mechanical Engineering junior Melanie Babin, the ISLP offered an opportunity to help in less developed areas to find sustainable, long-term solutions to environmental and technological issues.
“I believe that technology can improve the quality of life without obscuring traditions and harming the environment,” she said.
Chemical Engineering junior Peyton Paulson said she was optimistic that her team could find a solution that not only satisfies the problem now, but that is modular for the next group to work in the community.
“Upon arriving, we hope to conduct interviews to help further our assessment of the situation,” said Paulson. “We want to know all aspects of the problem before truly forming a ‘solution.’ We want our work to be long lasting and impactful. Whatever solution we outline or implement, we want locals to be happy and eager to maintain it.”
The students and faculty members left July 29 and are set to return August 16.