While many West Virginia University students enjoyed their Marchspring breakby sleeping in, catching up with friends or tanning on beaches, a dedicated group of seven students spent the week in the hot Mexican sun in a different wayby doing hard labor.
Two graduating seniorsSteve Martin, a mechanical engineering major from Naugatuck in Mingo County, and Laura Palimeno, a landscape architecture major from New Jerseywill have special memories of their final college spring break, which they spent building a greenhouse with the WVU chapter ofEngineers Without Borders, a volunteer group based in the Universitys College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.
WVU students formed the chapter this academic year to use their engineering and other talents to make a difference in the world. Despite theengineerspart of the groups name, students from a variety of majors are involved.
The spring break project took place two hours from Mexico City in a rural area called Queretaro, where WVU students built a greenhouse for a family. The greenhouse project was started four years ago, but the family ran out of money for supplies and water. The WVU group was able to help get the greenhouse building process going again.
Other WVU students who participated in the greenhouse-building trip included Emily Calandrelli of Morgantown; Jackie Grimes of Sewickley, Pa.; Mehran Mohebbi of Iran; Kyle Phillips of Warren, Ohio; and Emily Rengers of Morgantown. Victor Mucino, a WVU professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who has organized engineering service trips to Mexico for several years, accompanied the group.
We put a lot of time and effort into planning this trip,said Calandrelli, the groups publicity chair who was recently named a Truman Scholar.Finally going down there and meeting the family we were trying to help was very rewarding.
The WVU students were immersed in the culture of the area by living with host families and enjoying Mexican cuisine. Though a few of the trips participants were able to speak fluent Spanish, Calendrelli said that the language barrier was one of the biggest challenges they faced.
Another challenge was the manual labor involved in the project. The group began working at 7 a.m. each day and worked until around 1 p.m., when the temperature reached over 80 degrees. After the temperature became too hot to work, the students spent afternoons sightseeing, including visiting Aztec pyramids and the local marketplace.
The students raised their own funds for the trip and received support from the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, Mucino, WVU s Center for Civic Engagement, WVU s Office of International Programs and others.
Members of Engineers Without Borders plan to travel to Nicaragua this August to work on a water filtration project.
Through Engineers Without Borders, I have learned the importance of environmentally sustainable design and the effect a persons education can have on anothers global awareness,Palimeno said.My education here at WVU has given me the opportunity to pursue the practice of responsible and sustainable design that I hope to use in my profession.