This fall 2014 semester four ERE students, Taylor Brown, Sara Chin, Thomas Decker, and Ani Zipkin, traveled to New Orleans with ERE professor Douglas Daley to present their work in the first Humanitarian Engineering session of the Water Environment Federation Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) history. They were also able to represent ESF’s student chapter of New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA), and to learn more about water treatment and wastewater engineering and those involved in leading the industry.

Outside the WEFTEC convention center the students had the opportunity to help reduce flooding in New Orleans by participating in the Recharge, Restore, Revitalize Hollygrove: Conrad Park Green Infrastructure Enhancements project which provided green infrastructure enhancements through the efforts of 100+ student and professional members of WEFTEC. The green infrastructure project involved the construction of one raingarden and two grass bioswales that will reduce local stormwater damage. Collaboratively, the students helped with hand-grading with shovels and metal rakes soil layers, tiling a walkway and patio, and planting/mulching the raingarden. The team worked from 8am to 4:30pm on this service project, recognizing it as a fulfilling experience to contribute to the implementation of a community improvement with like-minded professionals and students.

ERE's Tom Decker at the community service project (from WEF)

ERE’s Tom Decker at the community service project (from WEF)

WEFTEC opening plenary session featured leaving WEF president speaking on our world's future in water use and treatment.

WEFTEC opening plenary session featured leaving WEF president speaking on our world’s future in water use and treatment.

In the WEFTEC convention center, ERE students Taylor (sophomore) and Tom (senior) presented posters in the Humanitarian Engineering session of the conference about a community water supply project in Buena Vista, Honduras and an alternative energy project in Abra Malaga, Peru. The Honduras project was started in 2007 by SUNY ESF’s Engineers without Borders club. Prior to the project, the village relied for their water supply on a precarious system of rubber tubing lying above ground that was prone to leaks and contamination by disease-causing pathogens. The EWB club worked with partners to design, fund, and build a gravity fed water system that provides 45 homes with reliable, potable water. Taylor was able to discuss her poster with professionals whom were also interested in humanitarian engineering and had done similar water supply projects in other countries. The Peru project was started in 2012 by an ESF alumnus and aims to provide 20 homes with electricity through the implementation of solar panels and small scale hydropower. Tom was able to share the efforts of the Engineering for a Sustainable Society (ESS) club with conference attendees and demonstrate the inspirational work that is the passion of EWB and ESS students.

Networking was great! With attendance of the conference over 20,000 people, Ani, Sara, Taylor, and Tom were able to meet many professionals, students, academics, and practitioners, and these contacts represented regions across the globe. The students participated in technical sessions, learned from practitioners in the enormous exhibition hall, networked at the career fair, and collaborated with NYWEA leaders and the Clarkson University NYWEA chapter. Our ERE students used this trip to learn about innovations in the water industry from the innovators themselves.

Next year’s WEFTEC is in Chicago and the ESF NYWEA chapter hopes to have student members attend for a second year.