In May I had the opportunity to travel to Lumbisi, Ecuador, to study what makes international engineering design projects sustainable and durable. With a team of other graduate and undergraduate students and three faculty members, we spent two weeks conducting surveys and interviews and learning the cultural, political, and social atmosphere of the Lumbisi.
Many international engineering projects (think water distribution systems, water filtration, agricultural irrigation systems, etc.) are rooted in good intentions: technically trained people want to use their skills to better those around the world who are less fortunate than themselves. But sadly, many of these good intentions lead to projects, especially in rural communities, that ultimately fail. The research in Lumbisi is designed to understand the importance of viewing an engineering project holistically, even if it seems purely technical at first glance.