Since year 2008 several groups of students enrolled in the CEE449 Environmental Engineering Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have had the opportunity to travel to different rural communities in developing countries to interact with the community members and learn about their specific needs related to safe water, health, sanitation, energy, and food security. The field trips incorporate on-site water quality analysis of the accessible sources to assess the presence of chemical and biological contaminants, assessment of current sanitation practices and energy resources available, as well as a cultural immersion to understand the communities’ priorities and needs. The students incorporate this information into technical design recommendations that address the specific challenges in the communities. One key aspect of this ongoing effort focuses on developing a robust relationship with local organizations that take the lead on implementation actions.
For the last three years the CEE449 class, under the umbrella of the Safe Global Water Institute (SGWI), has traveled to different countries in East Africa to work on a global collaborative effort with research and educational institutions, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to address the water, health, sanitation, energy, and food security challenges affecting these region.