Engineering students/profs travel to Honduras to help orphanage become energy efficient
By Nathan Handley
Union University News Office
JACKSON — Union Univer-sity engineering students are using their skills for service. Last month, a team of engineering students and faculty traveled to Honduras to assess the needs of an orphanage.
Randal Schwindt, professor of engineering, said the goal of the trip was to find ways to help the orphanage save money using the skills engineering students learn in class. He said the orphanage, Orphanage Emmanuel, spends most of its funds on electricity, so the main focus of the project was reducing power consumption.
Schwindt said the orphanage spends about $24,000 per month on electricity, and about $13,000 of that is for current consumption. The rest goes to pay fees brought on by changes in the government of Honduras.
“The government made promises that it did not keep, and it is all very political,” Schwindt said. “We aren’t going to be able to fix that, but what we’re trying to do is reduce the costs where we can.”
Chris Boccarossa, one of the engineering students who went on the trip, said the orphanage’s three main areas of power consumption are water heaters, welding equipment, and the team house, where visiting missions teams stay.
While in Honduras, the team tried a few prototype ideas for solar water heaters with moderate success. Boccarossa said solar power and increased efficiency are the most likely ways to reduce costs.
Two teams of senior engineering students will be doing work for the orphanage as their senior design projects. Erin Picard and Nathan Parke will work on solar power for the team house, while Chelsea Johnson and Seth Guiler will work on a solar water heating system.
“This is what we’re all about at Union,” Schwindt said. “Using the skills that we’re learning in service to God’s kingdom.”
Todd Brady, vice president for university ministries, and Julie Bradfield, director of student mobilization, joined the engineering department on the trip to Honduras. Bradfield said Union has been sending missions teams to Orphanage Emmanuel for several years, and she is excited to see students seizing the opportunity to serve.
“It’s such a blessing to have students like these who are finding creative ways of service and outreach,” she said. “They have already been a blessing to Orphanage Emmanuel.”
Parke and Picard, senior engineering majors, also went on the trip along with Georg Pingen, associate professor of engineering.