Engineers Without Borders chapter ready to design water system for school in Dominican Republic


Eva Hansen, Gary Moore, Bennett Nidenberg and Luke Dengler draw well water for testing at a school in Don Juan, Dominican Republic. The University’s Engineers Without Borders chapter is designing a water treatment system so the school can have drinking water on site.

Students with the University’s Engineers Without Borders chapter are ready to start designing a water treatment system for a school in the Dominican Republic, and will launch a fundraising effort to help fund the project later this semester.

Four members of the chapter -- Eva Hansen ’18 of Biomedical Engineering, Vivian Li ’18 of Computer Science and Economics, Luke Dengler ’18 of Chemical Engineering, and Bennett Nidenberg ’16 of Biomedical Engineering --  along with their professional mentor, Gary Moore, visited Don Juan during winter break to conduct further water tests and a site assessment. It was EWB’s second trip to the site.

 “The water quality is addressable using standard treatment,” said Hansen, the chapter vice president. “There is no E. coli but there is coliform bacteria that can’t be filtered out mechanically, so we will have to design some way to treat the water.”

 Nidenberg said the idea is to come up with a system that can connect with piping already available in the various buildings on the school grounds.

 The Santa Maria Josefa Rosello Escuela Taller school in Don Juan has two wells on site for nondrinking purposes, but drinking water has to be purchased, which is too expensive to maintain long term, especially since the school is planning to expand from 400 to 500 pre-k through eight grade students.

The goal of the EWB students is to have three alternative designs and an analysis of the pros and cons of each ready to submit by the end of this semester to EWB national headquarters, and then share with the Don Juan community.

Next winter another team will visit Don Juan to oversee implementation of the project, using local materials and labor to help support the local economy there.

The students estimate the implementation phase of the project will cost $15,000 to $18,000. Li, the team’s internal affairs coordinator, said the chapter will apply for corporate grants and conduct fundraising, including a USeed crowd-funding appeal later this semester.

With assistance from the Rochester Water Bureau, the chapter received about $3,000 worth of in-kind donations and loans from Hach, a company that provided the students with water testing equipment for their recent trip.

eva tests

Eva Hansen above and Vivian Li below test water samples.

vivan tests

“With implementation of the project, one of the main goals is for it to be sustainable,” Hansen said, “so this year we’ll also be preparing a lot of educational materials for the community.  We don’t’ want to provide this system to this community and just pull out and leave. Otherwise it will break and no one will know how to fix it. And then what’s the point?”

That’s why the chapter plans at least two additional trips, even after the treatment system is in place.

The chapter will also develop a way of touching base with the Don Juan community every other month or so, in between the on-site visits, “as a way checking to be sure the system is working, and if it breaks, are they able to buy the parts and replace them and have it working just as it was before,” Nidenberg explained.


 Vivian Li at left and Luke Dengler interact with students.

In the meantime, the students are gaining global perspectives as well as organizational, communication, and fundraising skills that will serve them well in their future careers.

 The chapter regularly draws 30 to 40 members to its meetings; its parent organization, Engineers Without Borders USA  “builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.” Its 15,900 members work with communities to find appropriate solutions for water supply, sanitation, energy, agriculture, civil works and structures.

The UR chapter always welcomes new members from all disciplines. Interested students can join UR EWB on CCC and email  or visit EWB’s facebook page at for more information.

Click here to read about the group's first assessment trip to Don Juan.

groiup shot

Vivian Li, Eva Hansen, Bennett Nidenberg, Luke Dengler, and Gary Moore pose for this photograph in front of the school.