Trips to Guatemala

International Engineering and Design students sit atop Volcan de Pacaya, looking out at Volcan de Fuego in the distance.
Students show amazing ability to make connections regardless of language barriers.
The students worked in two groups to gather data about the filters. Experiments were set up both at the Ecofiltro factory and at the hotel where the group stayed in La Antigua.
In addition to the physical data, household consumer data is very important to understand how the ceramic pot filters are being used by families. The students conducted surveys of community members who have been using ceramic pot filters for a year and a half.
It can be very informative to observe the process used to produce a technology. Students observed and documented the production process at Ecofiltro, noting irregularities and how they may affect the final result.
The students had the opportunity to hike up Volcan de Pacaya, an active volcano near Guatemala City. As they hiked back down, they were able to view some glowing rock thrown from the crater.
The students traveled to Livingston, Guatemala with ceramic pot filters from Ecofiltro. These filters could be purchased at a lower cost through a partnership between Ecofiltro, Alianza de Derecho Ambiental y Agua and Fondazione Sipec, two non-governmental organizations that do work in the area.
The trek up Volcan de Pacaya was strenuous, but the landscape near the top became surreal and well worth the effort.
When the students visited communities, they tested the flow rate and disinfection efficacy of the filters that had been used for a year, as well as the new filters that the families could purchase. The data that the students collected will be used as a baseline for the performance of the new filters.
The students in the International Engineering and Design class traveled to small communities near Livingston, Guatemala. There are no roads to these communities, so they had to travel by boat from Puerto Barrios to reach Livingston and the smaller communities. Everywhere you turn, connection is the lifeblood of society. In a place without electric, cars, or even roads, that connection comes in the form of boats and neighbors.

As a geological engineering student, you’ll have ample opportunities for travel and fieldwork. One of the most popular destinations in the program is the beautiful, yet impoverished Central American country of Guatemala.

Many geological engineering students get the chance to travel to Guatemala as a capstone senior design project for their Introduction to International Engineering and Design course. The course, also known as GE 5247, is a 15-week multi-disciplinary design course focused on sustainable design and technology transfer to developing countries, such as Guatemala.

As part of the course, every year Dr. Curt Elmore, associate professor of geological engineering, leads a group of students in January, and again in March, to Antigua, Livingston, and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, where the students learn how to provide sustainable water supplies to the rural inhabitants of the country’s highlands. In particular, each student’s research is focused on the performance of ceramic pot filters made with mostly local material and local labor and have the capability to disinfect a household’s drinking water. Students taking the Women as Global Leaders course, also known as A&S 111, join the students traveling to Guatemala in March.

During the trips, students learn about Guatemalan culture, study Spanish, collect data, conduct experiments, and execute work plans.  They gain invaluable experience dealing with people with ethnic and language backgrounds different from own, and they learn how to solve technical and everyday problems in an international environment

These annual trips wouldn’t be possible without the financial support of the National Science Foundation’s Office of International Science, Missouri S&T and individual donors.  

Photos from the 2014 trip to Guatemala by International Engineering and Design course students and Dr. Elmore can be seen in the slideshow:

Past trips