Feature Stories

Solar Water Distribution System in PNG

raising water tower PNG

PUC's Team Papua New Guinea spent several months planning and implementing a project to improve a community in need. Two CAEE students were members of the team along with students from other engineering disciplines and the social work program.

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The Projects for Underserved Communities (PUC) program, offered by the Cockrell School of Engineering, combines the need to train future global engineering and social work leaders with the mission of the University of Texas at Austin of “What Starts Here Changes the World.”

PUC is an innovative multidisciplinary curriculum, designed to teach project management skills and develop the cross-cultural communication competencies that are essential to working in a global environment. Engineering and social work professionals have complementary skill sets that lend themselves well to working on sustainable development projects together.

In consultation with faculty mentors and through formal instruction, students work on project development and design with partners in marginalized communities around the world. Instructors from CAEE include James O'Connor, construction engineering and project management professor, and John Burgin, environmental and water resources engineering lecturer.

During the summer, students travel to the approved project sites to implement their projects and see the direct impact their project-based academic work will have on the lives of others. Students have worked on projects in locations such as Ghana, Peru, Mongolia, Guatemala and Mozambique.

After researching several possible projects and discussing the impact that each would have on different communities, the team implemented a solar water pumping system in the community of Mangiang, Papua New Guinea (PNG). They received assistance from the Appropriate Technology & Community Development Institute (ATCDI), a non-profit development organization located at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech) in Lae, Morobe Province.

Alumnus Jimmy Canning (BSCE 1979) provided invaluable on-site guidance on PNG culture, project planning and execution, in-country accommodations, transportation, security and logistics.

The project was completed and operational as of October 2013. Over 500 people now have improved access to clean water.

CAEE Students Taylor Nordstrom (Civil Engineering) and Matt Rodriguez (Civil Engineering) were team members of this project

Read the team's blog.