Many people in rural Tanzania struggle to get clean water and their quality of life suffers because of it. Thanks to several BYU engineering students, life will be easier for the Tanzanian people.
A team of BYU engineering students participated in a project sponsored by WHOLives.org to construct a drill that extracts clean ground water for people in Tanzania. The project lasted for two weeks in May.
Christopher Mattson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said the idea for the project was based on a few main financial factors.
“There’s a lack of clean water in rural Africa,” Mattson said. “Professional water drilling rigs are prohibitively expensive, and there is a high rate of unemployment among rural African men.”
Considering these factors, Mattson said this led to the drill’s manufacturing and the involvement of the natives to use the drill to become self-reliant.
“Those three things naturally lead to ideas like this, which is to use human power, because there are a lot of unemployed people who could generate some energy,” Mattson said. “The idea is to use human power to do something that is otherwise very expensive with a huge machine to solve a problem that is a major problem; a water problem.”
Ken Langley was the project team leader who worked closely with the students on the project. He mentioned the project was a capstone project for engineering students initially proposed by the non-profit organization WHOLives.org. The non-profit teamed up with the BYU Engineering Department to finance the project. Langley said the students who went to Tanzania were fortunate to be able to participate.
“We saw a little statement about what the project was and we were able to submit a bid as students,” Langley said. “We were able to win the bid for this particular project.”
The success of the Tanzania drill project was largely credited to its preparation, which lasted eight months, Mattson said.
“I met with students a couple of times a week, starting in Fall Semester, all the way until the end of Winter Semester,” Mattson said. “We met on a lot of Saturdays and we did prototype digs where we built a machine and tried it. For a couple of months they dug holes in my backyard because they needed spots to dig and then we got other spots to dig.”
Nate Toone is a BYU engineering student who participated in the project. When the BYU team arrived there, he said the people of Tanzania received them well and were eager to participate.
“We were very much with the people that don’t normally interact with people from America,” Toone said. “As soon as they understood what we were doing — that we were constructing a drill and trying to help them get water — they were very excited. Wherever we drilled we always had people that would come and watch us and would want to help, and we were able to allow them to help. We would show them what they could do and they were excited to participate.”
Toone also said the BYU students were able to participate in a few other fun activities while there, including a humanitarian project for an orphanage, and a two-day Safari. They also attended the Kilimanjaro Bowl, the first American football game ever played in Africa, between Drake College and a team from Mexico.