Portobelo Drinking Water - March 2012
Future Scientist organized the first Program in Sustainable Design, with 5 UC Berkeley/UCSF participants. The goals were:
1) Teach participants the engineering design process by applying it to the community of Portobelo
2) Repair and improve an existing water tank to provide potable water throughout the year
3) Teach local students about clean water and filter design
4) Use solutions developed by the participants to address additional problems in Portobelo
We thought it important to give the program participants a complete perspective of Panama to enable them to design more appropriate solutions. We started off with a tour of the historic Casco Viejo in Panama City, lunch at Niko's for Panamanian food, and a visit to the Miraflores locks, where an American warship was passing through. The next day, we hiked on the Camino Cruces trail to better appreciate the Centroamerican rainforest as well as the impact of the Spanish colonization.
(click on photos to enlarge them)
We proceeded to Portobelo on the Caribbean Sea, where the students began conducting a large-scale needs assessment. At night we would all meet, discuss the day's events and design journals, and Richard and Gautham would teach the next step of the design process. This way, the students experienced all parts of the process in one very busy week.
During breaks in new project design, the participants would help Gautham and Richard build a new dam to regulate water flow. We also recruited three high school students and their agriculture teacher to help with the water tank repair project. This not only made the project go much faster, but it served as an example for other tank repairs that are much needed in the area.
Finally, we taught a very fun lesson on water filtration and microscopy to high school students. Our students acted as teachers and directed their design of really cool filter designs. We took one afternoon off and went to Playa Blanca, our own pristine beach for a few hours. Our last day we filled up the chlorine module and Padre Carlos and Nurse Petra opened up the giant valve. The sound of rushing water going to the center of town was really great to hear. Our chlorine tests showed that the water is sufficiently chlorinated now, and the sedimentation tank is helping with water clarity. The program participants' projects revolve around providing clean drinking water in a sustainable manner to all of the high school's 900+ students. Interested joining us in January and help us make this a reality?