Planting the Seed

img-seniorproj-sunflower-photosIn October 2011 MSOE student Matthew Peterson heard a man from Padibe, Uganda, talk about his community’s need for a sunflower press that could be used to harvest oil from sunflower seeds. The oil would provide a much-needed boost to the local economy, which was ravaged by nearly 20 years of civil war. In order to move forward with obtaining a press, however, the villagers first needed a structure in which to house the press. This is where Matthew stepped in.

In April 2012 the architectural engineering/structural engineering major traveled to Uganda with a fellow MSOE student and Associate Professor Dr. Patrick J. Jung. Matthew and Dr. Jung conducted a soil analysis and basic survey work and, when the final site was selected, Peterson designed the building that was constructed by local contractors in June 2012.

Using the skills he learned in his AE/MSST courses, Matthew was careful to use materials and technologies that could be easily accessible to locals in Padibe. “The overall guidance I received from my professors was to use the building technology of the area. It was stressed to me that I should not try and introduce any technologies that could not be sustained by the locals. I think this was very important for us as a group as we went through the project,” he said.

Much of Matthew’s motivation for the project came from his exposure to the principles of servant-leadership. “I believe the most influential part of my [MSOE] education was the study of servant-leadership. In the Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management Department we are exposed to the theory of Servant-Leadership in many of our early classes.”

img-studentproj-sunflowers-photos2Matthew encourages other students with similar passions to be proactive. “It is unbelievable how willing and helpful MSOE faculty are. Once I began the discussion of the project, both the CAECM and Servant Leadership Departments were more than supportive. I believe MSOE students have opportunities to change the lives of so many people while applying what they have learned in the classroom. Because the applications of all engineering disciplines are so broad, any student can become involved in a service project like this one.”

Matthew returned to Uganda in June 2013 with Assistant Professor DeAnna Leitzke and two MSOE students. “This year we completed the design of bamboo reinforced concrete slabs to be used in single family pit latrines. We traveled to remote villages in Northern Uganda holding concrete demonstrations to not only introduce this new technology but to also instruct individuals on the best practices of mixing concrete,” said Matthew.


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