Giving Water for Life

Water is life. Our liquid reliance is embedded in 70% of our world’s geography and makes up 60% of our bodies, after all. Yet, nearly one billion people do not have access to safe water.

Boiled down: One in eight people worldwide cannot find clean, drinking water.

And that’s exactly why the Hope College Engineers Without Borders (EWB-Hope) chapter traveled to Kenya in May 2017. Only 57% of Kenya’s population has sustainable access to clean water sources, according to the World Health Organization. By comparison, the United States measures 99%.

For three weeks, in a rural area called Bondo just outside Migori in southwest Kenya, Adam Peckens, laboratory director for the engineering department, and seven Hope students, coordinated and engineered the installation of two wells and a rainwater catchment system. Their efforts — financed through EWB-Hope’s own fundraisers and a crowd-funding program initiated by the College Development Office — ultimately changed the lives of over 500 local residents whose previous access to clean water was an hour’s walk, each way. EWB-Hope went on a mission to give water for life.

EWB-Hope team, Bondo residents, and the new rainwater catchment system at the local church/school.

Their efforts ultimately changed the lives of over 500 local residents whose previous access to clean water was an hour’s walk, each way.

This was not EWB-Hope’s first trip to the Bondo area. The chapter — under the advisement of Dr. Courtney Peckens, assistant professor of engineering — has partnered with the community for three years and has made two previous excursions there — the first in 2015 to determine what water residents had access to (very minimal, very seasonal, and very contaminated); the second, in 2016, to attempt a well installation that unfortunately was not successful. This year, however, the team struck it water-rich. By the end of their stay, they watched their new Kenyan friends gratefully use hand pumps to access clean water close to home.

For all of the manual and mind hours it took to make living waters flow, none of the work hammered out by EWB-Hope in Africa or on campus prior to departure, was done for college credit. Instead the sheer satisfaction of knowing fellow human beings could now drink clean water was reward enough.

“It was a great learning experience where it’s not necessarily an equation you’re trying to solve for a grade like in an engineering class, but a real-life problem affecting real people.”

Michelle Ky with community member and chairperson, Becky, at closing meeting.

“It was a big success story for our students and the (EWB) chapter overall. They really pushed forward to get the work done,” says Peckens, an environmental engineer who worked on many different groundwater remediation projects around Michigan and the Midwest, before coming to Hope in 2014. “It was a great learning experience where it’s not necessarily an equation you’re trying to solve for a grade like in an engineering class, but a real-life problem affecting real people. It’s taking in all of the factors around that problem and trying to come up with the best solution. And that solution might not be perfect, but it works.”

To his point, Peckens recalls how designs changed once the team got on the ground in Kenya. Though the full drawing set and a mock build of the catchment system worked just fine in the engineering lab on campus, “when we got there, circumstances were different, of course,” he observes. “We lacked some of the same supplies or the right tools (we had back home), and multiple trips to the hardware store in Bondo meant we had to adapt the design in the field. It was a good hands-on experience for the students to see that not everything works out as you planned so how are you going to troubleshoot that.”

“It was a good hands-on experience for the students to see that not everything works out as you planned so how are you going to troubleshoot that.”

Another challenge was the language barrier. The Bondo residents speak Luo, a dialect of Nilotic languages. The Hope team did not have that language skill in their toolkit so dependence on their guide and interpreter, Paul O’lango, was heavy, especially at that Bondo hardware store.

Working on rainwater catchment system and tank spigot.

“Part of our project requirements was to locally source as many components as possible,” explains senior mechanical engineering major Rilee Bouwkamp from Holland, Michigan. “For the rainwater catchment system built at a local church, this meant finding a 10,000-liter water storage tank, saw, gutters, nails, hanger straps, the works. Most of the frustration came with trips to the hardware store in nearby Migori that would take almost an entire afternoon. Trying to explain what we needed was difficult even with a translator’s help and a sense of urgency in Kenyan culture is rare. Overall, our team learned to be patient and we began to understand that this aspect of the project was out of our control.”

“In the process Hope students discover they have so much impact not just mechanically but in local relationships.”

Dr. Courtney Peckens has been EWB-Hope’s faculty advisor since she returned to Hope to teach in 2013. (And yes, Courtney and Adam are a husband-wife team.) A Hope graduate of the class of 2006 who participated in EWB herself (she travelled to Cameroon to install bio-sand filters), Peckens knows full well how much the program changes lives… and not just those who now are able to get clean water. “This program is a good fit for us. It ‘s a way for Hope engineering students to use their God-given talents to help people,” she says, “and in the process they discover they have so much impact not just mechanically but in local relationships.”

“My favorite memory of the entire trip was interacting with the community members because they showed me how to appreciate the little things in life,” concurs sophomore mechanical engineering major Kaytlyn Ihara from South Lyon, Michigan. “Compared to what we have in the United States, they have very little. Even though they don’t have the luxuries that we Americans have, they always had a smile on their face. They always were thanking us, but I can never thank them all enough for all that they showed me. Now being back in the States, it has really taught me to take nothing for granted.”

Now that clean, safe, reliable, living water flows in Bondo maintaining relationships is as important as maintaining systems.

Well drilling at Bondo B location. Pictured Left to Right: Michelle Ky, Mathew Delaney, Mitchel Konkle, Kaytlyn Ihara, Brittney Weickel, Rilee Bouwkamp, Emma Donahoe.

EWB-Hope will continue to get updates from O’lango about once a week and then they’ll return to Kenya within the year, this time for a monitoring trip to check on the status of the wells and catchment system as well as the lives of their new friends. “We aren’t a group that comes in and installs an engineering system and then leaves without any future contact,” says Courtney. “We are in this for long-term solutions for people.”

Now clean, living water flows in Bondo. And so do beautiful, cross-cultural relationships. Both, it turns out, are necessities of life.

Hope Alums Help Hope Students Race To Zero

2009 Hope engineering alumni, Rachel Bakken Romero and Dr. Greg Pavlak back together again at the Race to Zero Student Design Competition in Golden, CO. Photo by Ellen Jaskol.

If they could have projected their 10-year-old futures after graduating from Hope, Rachel Bakken ’09 Romero and Greg Pavlak ’09 may have never seen another opportunity to work together again. Yet, maybe their engineering minds could have forecasted the possibility, albeit a small one. They did, after all, both graduate as mechanical engineering majors the same year, after taking multiple classes together on the same course sequence. They both had the same interest in building science, and they both ended up at the same graduate school, too — University of Colorado-Boulder — for a period of time to earn graduate degrees in the subject (Romero with a master’s; Pavlak with a doctorate).

So this past April, when they had the chance to work together again, though briefly, it was to culminate another engineering project for the sake of Hope students and energy efficient construction. Romero, as an energy engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, was helping to direct the Race to Zero Student Design Competition, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy that challenges collegiate students to design zero energy ready homes. Pavlak, as a visiting assistant professor of engineering at Hope, was mentoring three Hope engineering majors in their year-long senior design project for that competition.

Together, two alums and three soon-to-be alums, were making known the quality of Hope’s engineering program on a national stage. Of the 50 institutions that submitted designs to the Race to Zero competition, 40 were chosen while 39 teams traveled to Golden to vie for the title. Of those 39, the Hope team was the only one from a liberal arts, undergraduate institution. Baylie Mooney, Rachel Barbutti and Tiffany Oken — all members of the Hope engineering class of 2017 — put their quality work up against other teams from the University of Vermont, Syracuse University, Vanderbilt, and Purdue, Pavlak says, and learned a great deal about building science and themselves in the process.

“Dr. Roger Veldman called it a David and Goliath story. And it was. But even to be participating and competing against those other teams that had much more experience, specialized education, and funding was a testament to the hard work that our students put in to work out their design problems.”

“Some of the other teams they (Mooney, Barbutti, and Oken) were up against had these small armies of master’s and PhD engineers,” explains Pavlak. “(Hope engineering colleague) Roger Veldman called it a David and Goliath story. And it was. But even to be participating and competing against those other teams that had much more experience, specialized education, and funding, was a testament to the hard work that our students put in to work out their design problems.”

New Cook Village housing

So, what was the Hope team’s project? Finding ways for the newest Hope housing project — Cook Village, currently under construction — to become so energy efficient that the building’s own renewable power can offset most or all its annual energy consumption. “We selected a Hope campus project partly because it was interesting and partly because of the timing,” Pavlak says. “Construction was starting on the next two buildings of the village last fall, and AMDG Architects, who did the original design, was still involved so we were able to work with them and get the detailed plans for these new buildings. We really approached it from the perspective of what can we do with this existing design to make it ready to meet the zero energy requirements for the competition. ”

Using energy modeling software to simulate, test, and derive proposed outcomes, Mooney, Barbutti, and Oken found they could take a Cook building from its base of 40% to 83% more efficient than the average home. To get there, they boosted insulation and mechanical systems quality, used strategic solar paneling, and took advantage of the relatively constant temp of the earth (roughly 50 degrees all year) to heat and cool the house with an enhanced geothermal system.

Left to right, 2017 Hope engineering alums, Baylie Mooney, Rachel Barbutti, and Tiffany Oken present their project at the Race to Zero Student Design Competition. Photo by Ellen Jaskol.

A skeptic might think that all of those energy upgrades might come at too high cost. But Mooney will be quick to tell them that it’s all not as expensive as they’d think. Especially considering the cost of energy consumption over the life of the eight-occupant, two-story home.

If they aren’t sustainability buzzwords already, “doable efficiency” just got elevated in the Hope engineering lexicon.

“We found through our updates that there was only a 2.7% pricing increase from the original bids for that building to the more energy efficient upgraded materials and systems we proposed,” says Mooney who hopes to go into building science for her career. “Considering that there was only a 2.7% cost increase, that was pretty impressive especially since we got so close to zero energy for a good size home (2800 square feet). It’s very exciting because significantly lowering energy use and cost for these already efficient (Cook Village) buildings seems doable.”

Team Renewable Hope listen to other presenters at Race to Zero. Photo by Ellen Jaskol.

If they aren’t sustainability buzzwords already, “doable efficiency” just got elevated in the Hope engineering lexicon. Though the Hope team’s findings could not change energy efficiency for these recently completed buildings, future Cook Village buildings could use some of their recommendations. Either way, from Mooney’s perspective, everything about racing to zero was worth it. “The project, the competition and the trip out to Colorado — they were the highlight of my career at Hope,” she says.

“To have Hope playing on that level was a great way to get recognition for a strong program that is growing these really unique individuals who are well-rounded and well-educated. They don’t just speak engineering. They can literally speak Spanish, or they traveled abroad, or they play a sport. They are engineers with a liberal arts background, which of course I believe in.”

As for Romero, she was excited to have the opportunity to engage with and showcase Hope College students and faculty, especially one who was a former classmate, on her home turf of NREL where she has worked for seven years. And though Pavlak has recently taken a new position at Penn State and will be leaving Hope this summer, Romero hopes a Hope team will return to Race to Zero in the future.

“It was great to have others at NREL and in the competition know about Hope,” Romero explains. “To have Hope playing on that level was a great way to get recognition for a strong program that is growing these really unique individuals who are well-rounded and well-educated. They don’t just speak engineering. They can literally speak Spanish, or they traveled abroad, or they play a sport. They are engineers with a liberal arts background, which of course I believe in. Overall, I think the Hope team did a great job showing off the quality of Hope engineering.”

Hope Formula SAE: Right on Track

An old adage in car racing goes quickly like this: “In order to finish first, first you have to finish.” It’s as black and white, like a checkered flag, as that.

Hope College Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE)
Number 68 on track: Hope College Formula SAE car and driver

Last week when the Hope College Formula SAE team finished every event set before them at Formula SAE Competition at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS), it fulfilled the last half of that clear-cut adage while hoping for the first. Getting to the finish line of seven design and driving events was their top priority; getting there first would have been a big, though honestly difficult, bonus.

“The team had three main goals this year: show up at MIS with a car, pass the technical inspection, and compete in and finish all events,” says Carl Heideman, the team’s advisor and Hope’s director of process and innovation and CIT. “We were very excited to meet each goal and finished mid-pack in every event.”

Hope College Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE)
Carl Heideman advises freshman Jarrett Matson before his driving event.

In fact, in the end, the Hope car was one of only 65 to finish each event (business presentation, engineering design, cost/manufacturing analysis, acceleration, cornering, autocross and endurance/fuel economy) and placed 77th overall out of 115 cars. Hailing from one of only two four-year liberal arts colleges at the national and international competition (the other four-year school finished 109th), the Hope team, with 15 members strong, placed higher than better-sourced university teams like Michigan Tech, US Air Force Academy, Rutgers University, Lawrence Tech, and Brown University.  The first-place finisher was the Universität Stuttgart from Germany, and Oregon State University topped the U.S. entries at fourth.

“This project is really not about the competition and it’s not about a car,” Heideman declares. “It’s a metaphor for an education.”

Formula SAE is not simply a race but a well-rounded competition organized by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) International in which students design a formula-style race car, build it from the ground up, raise their own funds, and develop their car for a variety of static and dynamic events. Each co-curricular team creates its prototype based on a series of rules spelled out in a guidebook about 300 pages long. These rules ensure on-track safety as well as promote the development of engineering skills.

This was Hope’s second foray into the Formula SAE designing, building, and racing world. In 2010, a Hope team finished 76th, garnering Rookie of the Year honors. This year’s team, though, improved in every event score over the 2010 team except acceleration.

“This project is really not about the competition and it’s not about a car,” Heideman declares. “It’s a metaphor for an education. When you talk to students, they will tell you they learned a ton about project management, about team dynamics and about relationships. And along the way, they learned a little bit about engineering, too.”

Hope College Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE)
In the pit at MIS: Hope Formula SAE team members work on their car.

Powered by a motorcycle engine, fabricated from frame to axles and costing no more than $30,000 dollars to create, the Hope car was admittedly not an innovative one but it was very reliable and robust, Heideman says. Heavier than most of the other cars it competed against, the car was built by the team to stay true to its business logic and design case. It was built with the amateur weekend racer in mind.

Freshman Jarrett Matson from Mahwah, New Jersey, has been interested in anything that moves with an engine since he was very young. A mechanical engineering major, he was drawn to the SAE team not only due to his future aspirations to work in the automotive industry but also because he wanted to learn how to weld better. He did that and along the way learned a more global lesson.

“The most valuable thing I’ve learned from making this car is how to work on a team with other people,” reflects Matson. “I do well working by myself, but that’s not how this works. With this project, I had to figure out ways to communicate better, ways to motivate people, ways to collaborate. We spent a lot of time together working on this car. Sometimes it went well, sometimes not so well. We just had to work it out.”

“This team has taught me how to handle success, but also has taught me to be able to admit and move past failure. I believe this is the greatest quality about this team.”

Senior team captain Ryan McConnell from Cadillac, Michigan, told Patti Engineering, one of the team’s sponsors, that “Hope College Formula SAE is more to me than just a club, or an on-campus organization. This team is a set of friends, and it shows through all the work that we do. If it were not for this team, I would not have the practical experience of engineering that I need to truly be a successful engineer. This team has taught me how to handle success, but also has taught me to be able to admit and move past failure. I believe this is the greatest quality about this team. We all have learned to tell others that we are wrong, and we have now developed the skills to move on and fix those mistakes and failures.”

One example of the beauty, frustration, joy, and reality of team dynamics was best displayed during the endurance event of the competition. The team encountered a snafu but worked to solve the crucial problem with less than 15 seconds to spare, then drove the final five laps first in rain, then in sleet.  (The weather was not pretty in Michigan late last week.) It was a terrific example of creative problem solving, putting liberal arts, critical thinking to good use.

“The students really demonstrated the attributes and values of a Hope College education,” summarizes Heideman. “They made friends, helped others, impressed officials, competed vigorously, and stayed humble and composed throughout.”

Hope College Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE)
The 2016 Hope College Formula SAE team

CFL and SHI: Partners in Ideas, Innovation and Leadership

A unique and collaborative partnership between Spectrum Health Innovations (SHI) in Grand Rapids and Hope College’s Center for Faithful Leadership (CFL) is providing opportunities for both parties to glean the benefits that any good partnership seeks to achieve: combining ideas and labor toward reaching desired outcomes. For professionals at SHI, the objective is to create technically-feasible and market-desirable health care products that meet the needs of patients and clinicians alike. For students at Hope, the goals are leadership development and experiential learning. It’s proving to be a win-win association.

“A liberal arts education is a journey that exposes students to different ways of thinking, to different possibilities in education and life.”

CFL students and mentors and SHI ideators and project managers have been working together since 2014 to create better health-care services in interdisciplinary ways. It is this convergence of teaching, learning, innovation, and scholarship that makes CFL and SHI perfect partners. SHI provides the ideas and technical input; CFL students provide the labor and processes to idea validation. To date, more than 70 students with majors in accounting, communication, management, philosophy, engineering, religion and computer science have tackled 10 challenges. The most recent include a schedule software project, a neonatal ETT (Endo-Tracheal Tube) holder project, and a device to load a wheelchair into the trunk of car. Each melds multiple perspectives and breaks down disciplinary boundaries—a demolishing of silos, if you will, that results in these partners doing work on one big idea farm.

A Hope professor’s effort to save his students money has led to a national award. Dr. Steve VanderVeen, professor of management and director of the Center for Faithful Leadership, is one of only eight professors nationwide recognized through the Faculty Recognition Textbook Scholarship Contest coordinated by the Used Textbook Association. He was honored for reducing students’ book-buying costs by choosing to use an earlier edition of a textbook that he feels continues to be just as relevant in the material it presents - pg 17
Dr. Steven VanderVeen, director of Hope’s Center for Faithful Leadership and professor of management

“A liberal arts education is a journey that exposes students to different ways of thinking, to different possibilities in education and life,” says Dr. Steven VanderVeen, director of CFL and professor of management. “Our partnership with SHI is about just that. It gives students from several different majors experiences to discern and develop their gifts and calling on their timelines. They get to learn this in college, not after they graduate. This is what drives CFL.”

The scheduling software project is headed up by Ben Schipper, a communication major and 2015 December Hope grad. Schipper and 12 others—professionals from SHI, CFL mentor Jim Cnossen, along with economics and computer science students—are working to eliminate the time demands associated with manually scheduling patients for numerous specialist appointments for in-patient rehabilitation. Department managers are currently spending hours using an old-school spreadsheet methodology to schedule patients’ therapies, but the new software will automatically generate a patient’s schedule instead. The goal of its creation is to save valuable staff time, time that could be spent otherwise caring for Spectrum Health patients.  Numerous months, meetings, and program iterations later, with assistance from Dr. Ryan McFall of Hope’s computer science department, Schipper and his team are close to auditioning a finished product within the next several weeks.

Ben at SHI with CPSC team
Ben Schipper (standing) leads a Report-Out meeting at SHI

Meanwhile, the neonatal ETT holder team, with assistance from Dr. Roger Veldman of Hope’s engineering department, hopes to debut a prototype by the end of this semester while the wheelchair-loading device team just got started on customer discovery research.

“Hope students have great dedication to their projects,” says Lori  Henry, a project manager at Spectrum Health Innovations. “They are motivated to have an impact to create real-life solutions. The highlight of the semester for me is hearing them present their findings at the report-out (a culminating presentation). I see their passion and it makes me excited about what we do.”

Hope is one of four colleges and universities in the region that partner with SHI. Each semester, VanderVeen meets with SHI leaders to determine if CFL will renew or exit the partnership. To each partners’ delight, the computer science and engineering departments have become directly involved with SHI, too.

“In the end, these collaborations are all about patients and people.”

“Regardless of the project,” says Scott Daigger, manager at SHI, “we focus on a couple goals. We want to work together with our college teams to find viable solutions to the ideas we have. That is foremost for us. We also want to help solve bigger problems that could benefit health care as a whole.”

“We’re educating students so they know what their gifts are,” says VanderVeen of CFL goals. “How do you know if you are good at something? You get involved and find out. It is the discernment of gifts and calling, alongside leadership integrity, that this partner is all about.”

While many projects fail to move from idea to finished solution—supporting the statistic that less than 10% of all new notions actually see a validated end—the CFL-SHI partnership provides a 100% great experience rate for all parties involved.

Concludes Lori Henry, “In the end, these collaborations are all about patients and people.”