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Mason student Whitney Woodcock with a Nicaraguan child

Civil engineering major Whitney Woodcock was among a group of Mason Engineers for International Development who traveled to Nicaragua to install a reliable water storage and distribution system for an orphanage and school.

Mason Engineers Get Water Flowing to School, Orphanage

This summer, George Mason University student organization Engineers for International Development installed about a half a mile of water pipe and electrical conduit in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

Led by civil engineering major Rony Avalos, the group spent part of spring semester designing a new water distribution system for an orphanage that supports 300 children, and planning the trip to install it. This was the group’s sixth trip to Nicaragua, with projects in different locations throughout the country.

“We had to figure out where the problems were,” says Avalos, president of the organization for three years. “The orphans were only receiving water for about two hours out of the day, and that water was of poor quality.” Avalos says pipes were too small and were broken in many places, and the concrete water storage tower was crumbling.

Seven students and two faculty members, including the group’s technical adviser and Mason adjunct faculty member Matthew Doyle, director of Engineers for International Development, made the trip.

“After working through many problems and spending hours under the hot sun, seeing the happiness of the community was priceless.”

— Civil Engineering major Rony Avalos

In addition to the planning and construction, the student engineers also raised money to purchase the needed supplies. The group often receives support from the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering in the Volgenau School of Engineering and the Provost’s Office.

This year, they had $7,500 to add to their budget, thanks to an award from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying for their successful service projects in Nicaragua and the partnership between students and professional engineers.

Since its formation in 2009, the Engineers for International Development has worked with small communities in developing countries, educating them about infrastructure systems, such as drinking water and sanitation, and providing solutions.

Throughout the project’s design phase, student engineers work in teams with faculty and technical advisors to perform calculations and formulate a construction plan. This process allows students to translate their academic skills in basic engineering courses to real-world design scenarios.