VMI Cadets perform outstanding service to community

Alexander Josiah Alvarado and Vania Murcia 

When people complain about millennials not being productive, we are sure they have not worked with the Cadets of VMI.  Cadets Vania Murcia and Alexander Josiah Alvarado engineered a solution to a water crisis in the community of Nuevo Chuicutama and designed an appropriate reservoir tank to ensure the community had year round access to water.

We had the honor of hosting a Cadets without Borders group during the summer of 2016.  The cadets were quartered in the Nuevo Chuicutama community center on a mission to investigate regional sanitation issues. 

While there, Guadalupe Ramirez of HSP approached the faculty advisor concerning the declining water tables in the region.   During the rainy season, the aquifers feeding the various wells that the community depended on was sufficient for community needs.  But, in recent years the water table has dropped enough to leave the wells dry for long periods of the year.   Complicating the situation has been recent changes to weather patterns marked by long droughts complicating efforts for rain catchment solutions.

Vania and Alexander suggested that they would be able to design a gravity feed system to fill a large cistern.   It was impressive for HSP staff to witness the design process employed by these students and to appreciate that there is not just one institution in scarlet and gold that knows how to engineer with what is available and not what is expensive.  

In the United States, the high labor cost of projects can be a deciding factor in the design decisions an engineer will make.   These students understood that with the high level of civic participation the community,  a labor intensive project is more appropriate.  It is an example of the resiliency required to work with marginalized communities that lack the resources for what could be a simple solution to a critical problem.

Everyone associated with our program was impressed with the professionalism and follow through of the Cadets.    We hope that the next time Cadets travel with us, their fellow class mates will appreciate the joy turning on a tap in the community center rather than waiting for the delivery truck from Xela. 

 

Ben Blevins