ISLP Trip to Peru a First of its Kind

July 23, 2018

Engineering students work on water issues in Peru during the International Service Learning Program.The annual International Service Learning Program (ISLP) features a multi-disciplinarian gathering of students working to solve a problem in a foreign culture and help them attend to a problem, in places like Belize, Botswana, Croatia, the Philippines, and Trinidad and Tobago. This year a trip to Cusco, Peru, specifically the Calca and Saccilo regions, has been added for engineering students to address water issues.

The Peru ISLP trip was established in part through a relationship with the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD). AASD is an organization that puts academics and indigenous cultures to together to share and collaborate. “What we’re trying to do is to figure out what we can reasonably do to help them and what the community can accomplish,” said Dr. Thomas Rockaway, who is leading the team.

Michael Keibler and Mary Andrade, from the Co-op and Career Development Office, initiated the ISLP trip to Peru in order to increase the number of global opportunities for engineering students. This coincides with the development of a global engineering track for co-op students that launches this fall. Keibler will travel with the group and will extend his stay to meet with other institutions to identify other study abroad programs specific to engineering.

“This is truly a community-based service learning experience and immerses our students in Peruvian cultures, lifestyles, and guides them on how to critically think about the engineering aspects of global problem-framing and solving,” said Keibler. “We are excited about the collaborative effort with the AASD and look to continue to build on the community relationship, and ISLP relationship, for many years to come.”

Engineering students pause their work for a group photo in Peru during the International Service Learning Program.For Mechanical Engineering Junior Melanie Babin, the ISLP has offered her an opportunity to help in less developed areas to find sustainable, long-term solutions to environmental and technological issues. Originally studying to be an artist, Babi elected to tackle Mechanical Engineering as a practical means of both supporting her interests and providing a stable income. An intern and part time employee at Samtec, she hopes to work with product designers or industrial designers after her graduation.

In addition to her burgeoning knowledge of mechanical engineering, Babin filters her experience through the Golden Rule, and wants to apply her skills altruistically, to accept the community as she hopes to be accepted herself. “I believe that technology can improve the quality of life without obscuring traditions and harming the environment."

Chemical Engineering junior Peyton Paulson likes to solve problems. From a young age, she was engaged in math and chemistry, and eager to apply her knowledge to real-world applications. Paulson has co-op experience at DuPont, which she hopes will better inform her work abroad. Beyond just the critical analysis and chemistry skills that she brings to the table, she is optimistic that her team can find a solution that not only satisfies the problem now, but that is modular for the next group to work in the community.

Dr. Tom Rockaway (left) and Michael Keibler (right) traveled to Peru with engineering students to work on water related issues.“Our first priority is obtaining data and conducting research and I know my co-op experience and lab experience will help with this. Upon arriving, we hope to conduct interviews to help further our assessment of the situation,” said Paulson. “We want to know all aspects of the problem before truly forming a ‘solution.’ We want our work to be long lasting and impactful. Whatever solution we outline or implement, we want locals to be happy and eager to maintain it.”

The first year of this project is set to establish a basic plan and to gather baseline information. Ideally, future ISLP trips will be modular in operation, building on the work of the previous participants. Ultimately, the goal is to build a long-term relationship with people of Cusco, both to help the community and enable our students to participate in real-world problem solving.  

The Peru trip runs from July 29th through August 16th.