Educating kids at EOH

I think the most important aspect of what we could be taking from the course is the sustainability part. I want parts of the booth to focus on how sustainable the systems of Puerto Rico and Illinois are. I’ve always been a guy rooted into nature and to me I got to experience one of the most beautiful pieces of scenery that a person could witness. I think we shouldn’t take it for granted and I think we should let the kids at EOH know that even though we had fun, we only had fun because we were surrounded by all of the nature. It’s much more important to me that they get an educational experience rather than a fun one. It would obviously be best to combine the two but I would prefer them to leave with a thought like “man, I want to visit Puerto Rico but I want to see it in all of its glory.” Because unfortunately money can be  a bigger influence on some areas than trying to preserve the beauty of nature. At the end of it I want us to be able to focus on the aspects of our trip that really made us appreciate it and want to go back.

Strangers in Puerto Rico

As I have further progressed in my trip to Puerto Rico I have to come to learn that it is not at all what I expected, and i have completely fallen in love. I love the food, the people, the nature, the culture, everything. I came here expecting to see a place somewhat similar to the United States and the Puerto Rican neighborhoods I see in Chicago. But what I have witnessed is an area filled with extreme dynamics and diversity. You can drive for an hour starting in the greenest, oldest living ecosystem of the rainforest and end up in dry and desert-like conditions. The beaches are incredible. They must be the ones that every photographer has captured because every single part is breathtaking. The nature here is just takes me back to a tranquil mindset where I really feel like I can breathe. I remember sitting at Cafe Gran Batey with my entire study abroad group in a quaint little house where our coffee was served to us by the mother of a small family; and I just got to sit in the back and witness entirely separate groups of people interacting and enjoying each other over something as simple as good coffee. We’ve used every day here to the best of our abilities, trying to retain as much information as possible from all of our experiences. The days here feel so full, we wake up early and spend the whole day doing something. Whether that’s going and spending the day at the beach or spending the day at the farm learning about agricultural practices our day is always full of something and it’s never boring. Even sitting on the porch of our apartment looking at the street outside is better, it’s not bustling or loud. Everything is relaxed. So when I look out the car window in the rainforest and see major construction it seems kind of disturbing relative to everything I had just described. The rainforest had already had been altered for tourists and it was getting cut down even more. If this is happening in a place as beautiful as Puerto Rico then I can only imagine the direct impact in other countries where there are little to no regulations on the environment and money is the first priority. When there is nothing holding these big businesses back it makes me worried that there could be a tragedy of the commons type situation that occurs and we would lose the beauty of our planet. It’s an extreme thought yes, but when I interact with the locals here most of them say there are only 2 or 3 beautiful beaches and a few good spots to see it makes me feel like we all take our homes for granted. When I get to look at all the areas of San Juan, Fajardo, Mayaguez, and Ponce I haven’t seen one part that has made me feel the same sort of way. At the same time I reflect and realize there are many parts of Florida and Chicago that I look at all the time and take in as a regular thing. We kind of poke fun at the tourists who think the Sears tower and the bean are some incredible things, and that’s because we see them all the time. I hope to be able to interact more with the locals of Chicago and Puerto Rico and find out exactly which parts are so anticlimactic to them because then I feel I could get a better understanding on exactly what creates certain mindsets that could make it possible for people to forget what kind of landscape surrounds them.

ABE 199: We are in business!

Let me use this post to welcome you and the students in ABE 199, Fall 2015, Sustainable Biosystems International to Puerto Rico!


I am very much looking forward to receiving a phenomenal group of first-year students to Puerto Rico  in a couple of days. We have some excellent tours set up. I have purchased a Go-Pro (R) camera—and a bunch of accessories—and I cannot wait to see how we document our trip. The students of ABE 199 will be guest authors for this blog over the next couple of weeks as they document the occurrences of this study tour.


I’d also like to thank the Departamento de Ingeniería Agrícola, at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, specifically  Professors Pérez-Alegría and Mathankar, for generously hosting us here during our visit. This will be the third time Dr. Pérez-Alegría and I collaborate to host students from Illinois in Puerto Rico.

Below you’ll see the phenomenal our draft agenda for the trip. It should be great.

If anyone has any questions about Puerto Rico please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.

Come to see the results of this trip during Explore ACES and Engineering Open House.

Draft Agena

Jan 4
  • Arrive SJU
Jan 5
  • El Yunque Day Trip
Jan 6
  • Las Paredes Beach or Luquillo Beach or another beach
Jan 7
Jan 8
  • Day Trip to Ponce
    • Hacienda Buena Vista Reservation has been made 1:30PM – 3 PM (1PM arrival)
    • Parque de Bombas
    • Museo Castillo Serrallés (reservation may be necessary) 9am-6pm
    • Centro Ceremonial Indigena
Jan 9
  • Coffee Production and Processing Systems Tour
    • Café Gran Batey Tour, Utuado
  • Caguana Ceremonial Ball Courts Site
  • Casa Cubuy Ecolodge
 Jan 10
  • Snorkeling Tour to Isla Icacos, Puerto del Rey, Fajardo
 Jan 11
  • Sugar Production Systems Tour
  • Agricultural Research Stations Tour, Lajas
  • La Bahía Fosforescente, La Parguera, Lajas
 Jan 12
  • (pending) Dairy Systems Tour, Hatillo or Fruit Tree Production and Nitrogen Runoff
  • Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo
  • Parque Nacional del Río Camuy, Arecibo
 Jan 13
  • Campus Work and Research Day
Jan 14
  • Flexible Day
    • Work on draft open house booth
    • Faro de Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo
    • Mayagüez Baseball
 Jan 15
  • First Day of Spring Term, Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez
    • XX:XX-YY:YY Draft Open House Booth Presented on Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez Quad
  • Dinner with Hosts and Selected Collaborators, Restaurant To Be Determined , Joyuda
 Jan 16
  • Day trip to Old San Juan
    • El Castillo San Felipe del Morro
    • La Fortaleza
    • Viejo San Juan