What follows are notes from Alex Caven, President of Engineering for a Sustainable Society (ESS), and Ted Endreny, their adviser:

Instead of relaxing during over spring break, five members of our ESS club (including Jen Gienau), traveling independent of ESF, but with an ESF ERE alumnus Stan Hovey, gathered in Haiti to implement sanitation and reforestation projects. The sanitation project was developed last year when ESS members embarked on an exploratory trip to Haiti, and the reforestation project has been in the works for decades thanks to the dedication of Stan Hovey. To prepare for the trip the ESF students learned of Haiti’s long history of political exploitation, and began to understand the underlying reasons of the country’s economic, social, and environmental challenges. In short, the country lacks adequate sanitation infrastructure, emergency facilities, and has experienced severe deforestation. To assist us at the interface of humanitarian engineering ESS has partnered with SOIL and Agronomy Institute, local organizations working to improve conditions in Haiti.

SOIL – Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods – is a non-profit founded in 2006, which provides waste to resource services by composting human waste composting for families and communities. ESS became involved when SOIL identified a problem that could benefit from an engineering solution. SOIL takes in many cubic yards of waste each month, allows this to compost for several months, and the final product then must be sieved to remove the remaining cover material and other unwanted particles. The sieving process has been a burden for the workers, requiring use of pitchforks to move the compost onto a screen and push it through by hand. ESS agreed to build a bike-powered compost sifter to improve their efficiency in the post-processing and sieving of compost. During the winter of 2015 ESS students came together to talk through design challenge, consider design alternatives, gather materials, build a prototype in Syracuse (in an unheated barn owned by ESF), and coordinate logistics between Syracuse and Haiti. One logistical obstacle to note – Haiti happens to be the only country in the world prohibiting the shipment of a bike.

Compost sifter frame as reconstructed in Haiti, with chain leading to rear wheel of bike.

Compost sifter frame as reconstructed in Haiti, with chain leading to rear wheel of bike.

In Haiti, the students reconnected with their shipped materials (sans bike), and met with the SOIL team to discuss the engineering design solution. Working together with SOIL staff, we built the compost sifter over the course of two six-hour sessions. This was completed at the SOIL office in Port-au-Prince and then loaded into the back of a pickup truck and driven into and through the city dump to reach the SOIL composting site. There, we connected the bike to the structure, worked through some issues with keeping the chain running smoothly, and gave it a first sifting test. Looking for a rider was easy – the SOIL workers at the compost site were eager to ride the bike. The final product will continue to be tweaked to better handle a range of size distributions.

The reforestation project was initiated by ERE photogrammetry specialist Stan Hovey, who spent some of his childhood in Haiti where his father was tasked with promoting reforestation and building an agronomy program. More recently Stan has taken up the reigns on his father’s projects and reached out to ESS for help. During the 2015 spring break ESS students participated in the building of two tree nurseries, and worked with Haitian agronomists from 6 different regions of the country to develop record-keeping, map-making, and technical skills. During this trip, ESS members approached a school outside of the city of Petit-Goave to start environmental clubs for budding scientists to promote environmental awareness. The agronomists, when the nursery trees are ready for planting, will recruit these environmental club members to help plant the trees. Stan has introduced advanced geographic information system (GIS) technologies to the tree nursery projects, and the ESS students helped agronomists to geotag nursery locations in the EpiCollect platform.

Coffee seedlings planted by ESF ESS students, Haitian agronomists, and Petit-Goave community members.

Coffee seedlings planted by ESF ESS students, Haitian agronomists, and Petit-Goave community members.

Jen Gienau teaches Haitian agronomists to geotag locations in EpiCollect and how to download the data into a central database and upload it to a GIS map.

Jen Gienau teaches Haitian agronomists to geotag locations in EpiCollect and how to download the data into a central database and upload it to a GIS map.

In addition to moving forward with these projects, ESS plans to engage in other efforts. Smart phones and computers are needed by the agronomists to help keep records and maintain communication across sites. Financial and material resources are needed for an innovative goat program which provides families with pregnant goats, along with nursery development, management, tree disbursement and planting to provide goat food and complete a nutrition cycle. Finally, electricity is needed by the mountain community of Bon-Bon, which has a high energy stream running nearby. There is the possibility ESS will build a pico- or micro-hydro system to provide Bon-Bon with year-round electricity.

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