For some engineering students, spring break is a time for service

As most Penn State students travel home or head to the tropics for spring break, many engineering students will be traveling to as far as Morocco to give back to local communities.

Richard Schuhmann, director of the engineering development minor, is leading a group of 17 undergraduate engineering students and one graduate student teaching assistant to Morocco.

The trip is part of the leadership, innovation and global resource challenges class in the engineering leadership development minor and is a global capstone project alternative for students in the minor.

Students will arrive in Morocco on March 6 and will be housed with local Moroccan families in the old city of Rabat for the entire trip.

The students will spend each morning attending lectures that will focus on water resources, including the topics of hydrological cycles, hydrogeology, engineering wastewater and engineering drinking water.

Each afternoon the students will be paired with Moroccan engineering students and assigned field challenges, such as measuring chlorine concentrations in public fountains, in cities throughout the country. The students will assess their field study findings and will then recommend solutions to the local community leaders.

"It is important for students to understand the culture and to build relationships with their Moroccan peers," said Schuhmann. "The cultural aspects of Morocco are as equally important as the science and engineering curriculum."

Students are required to keep journals throughout the spring break program and will continue to work with their Moroccan partners upon returning to University Park.

Many other engineering students will be staying within the borders of the United States for their spring break service trips.

Nathan Lehman, a senior in mechanical engineering; Mike Ferster, a senior in electrical engineering; Chris Brearly, a sophomore in civil engineering; Peter Farjo, a junior in bioengineering; Andrew Sharp, a freshman in electrical engineering; and Rachel Schartner, a freshman in engineering, will be traveling with the Reform University Fellowship (RUF) to New Orleans.

The RUF group will be working with a local church to rebuild homes and support community members that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The Navigators, a student ministry organization, also will sponsor a service trip over spring break.

Andrew Neal, a freshman in engineering, will be traveling with the Navigators to Atlanta. The organization will be working with the group Rescue Atlanta, a church with a primarily homeless congregation, on a variety of projects, including; building a dormitory, planning a summer camp, serving the homeless, tutoring students at an after school program and caring for young children at a local preschool during their week-long trip.

"It's important for students to realize how blessed they are to be at Penn State and it's also important for us to give back to those who are less fortunate," said Neal.

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Last Updated July 06, 2011