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Thayer Students Tackle a 'Real-World Problem' in Haiti

Jun 05, 2013   |   by Amita Kulkarni ’10   |   Dartmouth Now

For Robbie Cholnoky ’13, Kevin Dahms ’12, Robbie Moss ’12, and Annie Saunders ’12, four Thayer BE students who will graduate in less than a week, a good portion of their final year was spent focusing on an unlikely place—rural Haiti.

The student team took on the task of fixing an inefficient water system in rural Haiti as part of the two-term senior course, ENGS 89/90: Engineering Design Methodology and Project Initiation/Completion.

With support from Thayer School of Engineering, The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science (TDC), and the Dartmouth Class of 1980, Cholnoky, Dahms, and Saunders spent two weeks of the extended winter break in Fond des Blancs, Haiti, a rural town on Haiti’s southern peninsula. There they studied various aspects of the unreliable water distribution system that serves as the main municipal water source for roughly 4,000 people in the community.

The engineering problem was presented in an engineering class at the beginning of fall term as a potential project, which Cholnoky, Dahms, Moss, and Saunders ultimately chose to take on in the hope that it would lead to sustainable improvements in water, sanitation, and the health of the community. Assistant Professor of Engineering Solomon Diamond served as the team’s faculty adviser for the project. Studio Art Senior Lecturer Jack Wilson and Associate Professor of Engineering Vicki May, both who have spent time working in Haiti in the last three years, also provided guidance during the project and accompanied three of the students to Fond des Blancs in December...

...Since the students’ time in Haiti, they have completed the second term of the senior capstone course. The team’s final project involved developing recommendations for a cost-effective solar-powered water pump, preparing a comprehensive instruction manual, and putting together a preliminary grant proposal for St. Boniface to submit to funding agencies for the improved water pump system...

...“It was inspiring to experience the enthusiasm and insight that they brought to the project and I was particularly impressed with the comprehensive view and the discipline with which they approached their work,” Wilson says. “The outcome is a great tribute to the broad-based engineering education that they have received at Dartmouth.”

Students in Haiti
The students conduct their site assessment in Fond des Blancs, Haiti. (Photo courtesy of Jack Wilson)

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