Thursday, July 15, 2010

Check us out

PUC now has an article appearing on the UT Engineering website: Service Learning for Engineers Goes Global

Also, check out all our pictures from our trip: Picasa web album-Peru Trip

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this project possible!!!

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Back to the US Tomorrow

Well it's been a great trip here in Peru. We accomplished what we had hoped and more, and we've seen and learned great things. We took plenty of pictures and videos that will be uploaded as soon as we get back to the US and have a  proper internet connection to do so.

This morning, we took on a more "tourist-y" role, and did some sight-seeing at the Islas de Ballistas. This was spectacular. We saw all kinds of marine life, including dolphins, sea lions, and even penguins. We also learned a lot about Peruvian history and culture, which helped complete our Peruvian experience.

At the school, we fixed the small leaks the drip irrigation system had, so it can now automatically provide an even distribution of water to the flowers and trees we planted in their garden. All toilets have been installed in both the boys' and girls' bathrooms, and faucets have been replaced in the administration building.

We were greeted with a formal thank you ceremony put on by the school, complete with their national anthem, prayers, and many speeches of gratitude. We had a nice lunch with the Director and some of the professors, as they continued to express their gratitude.

This was truly an amazing experience, and I believe the students and the community have learned and benefited from our presence and accomplishments. We will all really miss being here and interacting with the students; it has become our home away from home.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

3 days left

This week has gone by so quickly, it's hard to believe we really only have three days left in Peru. We've been pretty busy at the school. As of now, we have all the faucets installed, all but one toilet installed, the drip irrigation system completed and buried, and work started on the sinks and valves in the administration building. Today we took what we hope is our last trip to Sodimac for supplies, and we also went to a nursery to purchase grass, fruit trees, and flowers for the garden. We hope this will provide the greenery the parents and director would like to have at their school, and that they'll then go through the necessary measures to make the remaining gardens just as beautiful.

Yesterday, we had a nice treat as we were finishing up our work. The school was having a Father's Day festival, full of skits, poems, songs, and dances. It was really great to see, especially the traditional dance.

On that note, for all our of fathers that we can't be with tomorrow, Happy Father's Day!

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Halfway Through

We've been in Paracas for 4 days now, and we've gotten so much accomplished.

The first day we met with the director, who is very happy that we're here to help. We learned that very little funds come to the schools from the government, so it is up to the persistance of the directors to ensure their school is in good condition. He was a little worried about the completion of the community well, but PlusPetrol's Armando Estrada assured him that it will be completed by July. At this meeting, our scope was slightly tweaked, eliminating the showerheads, along with some other tasks the director asked for that we're hoping we have the time and budget to acheive.

Then we went into Ica and gathered supplies at Sodimac (their Home Depot/Lowe's equivalent), located within the mall Playa del Sol. This was a very long process, but we got most we needed, and under budget. We had some challenges in availability and quality of plumbing materials, but have overcome them and are definitely leaving the school's restrooms not only set up for water conservation, but more functional and in better condition than they were.   

The second day, we finally got to work, starting the irrigation drip lines, and replacing faucets and toilets so that they conserve water. As of today, the dripline system is assembled and ready to be buried, and is in the process of hooking it up to their current distribution system. We recieved a lot of community help with this from parents and students that we were very grateful for. All four water conserving automatic shut-off faucets have now been installed, also with some help of some students. Shutoff valveshave been installed on all the fixtures in the boys' bathroom, so water service to the boy's bathroom has been restored after having no water for flushing or hand washing prior to our arrival. Two of the toilets in the boys' bathrooms have been successfully replaced with low-flush models, putting us on schedule for the rest of our stay. We have visited almost all of the classes, giving lessons on handwashing, sanitation, and water conservation. This was followed by a meeting with the parents this evening, where about 70 parents attended. An inspirational video about the importance of water was shown through a projector provided by Pluspetrol and speakers that the director let us borrow. We had a discussion about how they can help teach their kids water conservation and hygiene and also asked if they had any ideas for future projects.

The assistance of PlusPetrol has been invaluable, including Pluspetrol staff (Milagros and Edwin) and the security guards/drivers provided by PlusPetrol. Thus far it seems that everyone involved is behind the project 100%, the team is in good spirits and working well together, and we are optimistic of completing our tasks on time, within budget, and laying a foundation for future partnership between PUC, the school/community, and PlusPetrol.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Finally Here

We've successfully made it to Peru! After a smooth 6-hr flight, we landed in Lima late last night, and caught some sleep at the San Agustin Colonial Hotel. Since then, we have driven to Paracas (courtesy of our local stakeholders, PlusPetrol) checked into our hotel, which is beautiful, walked around and enjoyed the scenery, and ate authentic Peruvian food. Now, we're preparing our materials and reviewing our plans in order to meet with the director of the school in Santa Cruz tomorrow morning. We're taking lots of pictures, which will be posted to the blog soon, and we'll keep everyone updated as our trip continues.

A special thanks to all our donors and stakeholders who have made this trip happen :)

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Off to Peru in 4 days!!!

Things have been really busy these past couple months, trying to get everything bought, scheduled, planned, and organized as much as we could in order to make this a successful project. Countless lists have been made and crossed off, emails sent back and forth, and phone calls made. But now it's finally here, after a year of preparing, and we couldn't be more anxious and excited.

Since our last blog post, we've had some irrigation training to ensure our designs are adequate, with the help of Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's Phillip Schulze.

                Travelers with our professor, Dr. Burgin

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Friday, April 23, 2010

We're almost there!

We just had another SLAB board presentation, which went really well, and we are all getting excited for our departure to Peru.  A LOT has changed since our last SLAB presentation. PlusPetrol and the new government of the community have decided to drill a bigger well for the municipality, so the entire community will have access to enough water. This changes up our project scope pretty drastically, but our help is still needed. We are going to focus on water conservation and ensuring the water the school receives from the city will be potable.

As part of our focus on water conservation, we are going to install water-saving fixtures, including faucets, shower heads, and toilets. Currently they have no shower heads, and the principal would like for the students to be able to take showers once a week. Their toilets will be replaced with dual-flush systems, and a child-sized toilet will also be installed in each bathroom. Due to the high number of small children that attend the school, this one of the principal's initial requests that we thought wouldn't be possible with our old scope. With the absence of the well and distribution system from our scope, we now have the funds to provide the toilets. It's nice to know that the principal will be getting exactly what she wanted. In addition to the installation of fixtures, we are also installing an automated drip irrigation system so that their gardens can be watered more efficiently. We will then teach the community, both the children and adults, the importance of proper sanitation and water conservation.

We also hope to have the water tested prior to our arrival so that we can implement a filtration system if needed. We plan to shock and clean the current distribution system and storage tanks, which are currently very dirty, so they don't contaminate the water further.

To prepare for our project, we received plumbing training yesterday at Pickle Research Center, which was an awesome hands-on learning experience, and now we're all pros at toilet installation. We still have a few more tasks to complete before we're ready to travel, but we can definitely feel it getting close!

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Getting some first-hand knowledge

Over the past month, we've been learning so much information to better prepare us for Peru. A couple simulation modules have been created using our findings from the reconnaissance trip so that we can estimate the supplies we need. We also had a workshop on connecting PVC pipes, along with learning about the various types and sizes of connections, so we're all "experts" now.

Recently, we ventured out to Lady B. Johnson Wildflower Center so that we could better grasp the concept of a continuously used cistern system. We learned about each component of the system, as well as any flaws that have been discovered regarding the system in its environment.

These experiences will help us not only as we focus on our trip to Peru but also as we continue our lives after the project. Water is a part of life and well-being, the conservation of water is a issue that must always be on our minds, and knowing more about the systems that deliver the water can only improve the efforts.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Hard Work Paying Off

Projects for Underserved Communities has earned a 2010 International Awards for Innovative Practices in Higher Education. The awards are designed to showcase the most innovative and successful models underway at universities throughout the world. This year's judges included representatives from ASU, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Sichuan University. The award will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Council on Higher Education, a major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, next month. To learn more about PUC, please visit our NEW site (which will continue to evolve) at: The link for the award information is: While this does not come with any money, the recognition is an honor and we are proud to receive it!

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Semester Agenda

Our team is back from winter break, and back working hard to see this project through to completion. We've gained a few new members to our team, Cynthia Castro, Luke Chanarin, and Matthew Juran, who are just as dedicated to the project as we are. We've also gained the mind and direction of another UT professor, Dr. John Burgin. While fundraising is constantly on our minds and agenda, we are also learning new skills so that we have a better knowledge of drinking water systems, and can implement our project in the most effective ad sustainable manner. We have already visited a lab and learned about the different methods of collecting and testing water to ensure that its quality is within our country's standards. We also look forward to learning about everything from water tanks, pipes, and cistern systems to wastewater treatment and pumps, and even design workshops covering layout and components, building based off our constraints, alternatives, and sizing and specification. This information is all invaluable and will improve our understanding throughout this project and possibly our careers, despite the final outcome of the project.

We are doing our best to make certain our project is implemented in the best way possible, but it is up to each and everyone of our potential supporters to make certain that we actually have the financial means to do so. Please donate to this cause and help provide potable water to the hundreds of students that desperately need it; it is much appreciated!!!

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

1st Peru Trip January 11-17th 2010

After much hard work: fundraising, logistics, communications, scheduling, researching, etc.
We finally had Adrian Frias, and myself, Rosaura Estrada go to Peru.

The link above will show you our pictures and videos.
We met so many people and found out so many crucial information.
It truly was a blessing meeting so many positive and enthusiastic people.
Within one week I learned an immense amount: how a community deals with problems, how the municipality of Paracas distributes water, how much the people suffer from lack of water, a little about how the pipping and storage system for water works, how the government interacts with its community and surrounding businesses, how the culture of a country can resonate beautifully from its food to its music to its people. And I also learned that there are so many people out there like Dr. Ellzey or Steve Crowell cheering for us and helping us meet our goals of helping communities internationally.
I can't wait for the summer.
I invite everyone and anyone to learn more about this beautiful movement that is taking place at UT Austin: Engineering students using their knowledge and skills to positively impact communities around the world.

To the Peru team: I hope everyone is as enthusiastic and ready as I am.

These people need our help and like Mr. Armando Estrada (Community Relations Chair of Pluspetrol) said, we are the future and its up to us. They are here to help us to learn and do as much as we can.

Nunca Pierdan las ganas. NEVER loose that perseverance and motivation to help others.

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