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KU Chapter of Engineers Without Borders to Help Rebuild New Orleans

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seven students from the University of Kansas chapter of Engineers Without Borders will spend their spring break in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward working with the group Historic Green to rebuild the area in a way that preserves its history while creating a sustainable future.

“We saw a flier for the event, and it seemed like a perfect thing for our members,” said Jodi Gentry, environmental engineering graduate student and president of EWB-KU. “We have a lot of architectural engineers, so they will have a lot to bring to the project. They have a lot of skills they can bring.”

The KU group – which includes five architectural engineers, one chemical engineers and a chemistry major – is paying its own way with the exception of a small grant from KU Engineering Student Council to assist with expenses. Four of the seven students are freshmen.

As one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the Holy Cross Historic District of the Lower Ninth Ward became submerged in 10 feet of water for three weeks because of a levee break caused the storm. Nearly 6,000 residents were displaced, and numerous schools, churches and businesses were destroyed or severely damaged.

During the Historic Green event, hundreds of students and young professionals in the construction industry will bring their energy and ideas to help the people of the Lower Ninth revitalize their community. Architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects, interior designers and contractors will work hand-in-hand with neighborhood residents on their historic houses, parks, playgrounds and community centers.

“We’re leading a unique grassroots effort to go the next step to rebuild this historic landmark – this time green,” said Pam Dashiell, director of the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development in New Orleans.

The trip to New Orleans also will help the KU students build skills they can use on other EWB-KU projects, such as the group’s major ongoing project in Bolivia.

“We want to send our members (to New Orleans) for their team building,” Gentry said. “It’s a good way to get a lot of field training without having to make the more expensive trip to Bolivia. We try to work with many projects with a variety of groups.

“The students work with simple technologies, so it’s a way to grasp the classroom-based concepts and apply them to a real-world problem. You can go from this and do internships … but being able to work on all phases of the project really provides a fulfilling experiences for the students.”

For information about Engineers Without Borders-KU Chapter, visit www.ewb-ku.org. For more information about the activities in New Orleans, visit www.historicgreen.org.

KU EWB students traveling to New Orleans

JP Bornholdt; senior; architecture and architectural engineering; St. Louis

Mary Adams; freshman; architectural engineering; Lawrence

James Iliff, freshman; architectural engineering; Topeka, Kan.

Erin Diel; freshman; chemistry; Overland Park, Kan.

Margaret Gathunguri; freshman; chemical engineering; Lawrence

Jacob Pohlman; junior; architectural engineering; McHenry, Ill.

Connor Donevan; senior, architectural engineering and architecture, Dexter, Mich.

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