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The road to La Vega

A team of students from Engineers Without Borders traveled to La Vega, Guatemala, in January to assess the conditions for two potential projects in the town. The small team, made up of three UW students, a student from Guatemala and a mentor from Seattle, surveyed land for a community center, checked on soil conditions for a road project and spoke with community leaders about the needs and desires of the community. The people of La Vega and the University of Washington chapter of Engineers Without Borders have cooperated on one other project so far, the improvement of an existing fish hatchery. The project was a success, with UW students able to help increase the output of the fish hatchery. University of Washington has a five-year commitment to La Vega to improve the community and reach their goals of being economically independent. For more information about Engineers Without Borders at UW, visit students.washington.edu/ewbuw.

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Lisa Dunham (center) engineers paper frogs for children in La Vega, Guatemala. “I had made frogs the day before for a couple of them,” she said. “When we came to do our survey the next afternoon they followed me for a bit until I asked them what they needed. They said ‘Ranitas’ or froggies.”

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UW students stand on the edge of the road into La Vega. This is an area that is most likely to be washed out in the future. According to locals, there used to be about nine more feet of material, but now the cliff is next to the road. The volcanic rock weathers easily into sand, making designing protections from washouts a challenge.

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Team members Steve Reiber and Chris Westgard (L-R) survey a field near the local school that will be turned into a covered pavilion to hold markets, cultural events, sports tournaments and to be used during the rainy season as a playground for the school’s children.

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Lisa Dunham, a member of the UW chapter of Engineers Without Borders, holds a soil sample from near a potential washout area on the road to La Vega. The engineers hope to design drainage and rock walls for the area to keep the road from washing out.

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The view from the road down into the village of La Vega, Guatemala. The University of Washington chapter of Engineers Without Borders visited to help assess soil conditions for a road improvement project.


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