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Students creating solutions in Liberia

July 20, 2017

Sent by NNU on a Mission, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Stutz and three engineering students utilized their skills to serve a community in Sinoe County, Liberia. This team created gasifiers—machines that convert organic materials into a burnable gas. Senior mechanical engineering major Levi Sligar shares about his experience.

Hey Levi, why did you choose to go to Liberia?
​I chose to go on this trip because I saw it as a mission trip that had potential to help the target area as well as an opportunity to apply what I have learned in the engineering program.

What did the trip entail?
We worked with an engineering student from Liberia named Darius, along with the University of Liberia and a few other interested engineering students. We spent two weeks teaching and building two gasifiers. The gasifiers turn wood, garbage and other organic materials into a burnable gas that can run a gasoline generator. We spent most of our time at the university working, but we also worked with a local welder and drove all over Monrovia looking for parts.

What was your favorite part of your experience?
My favorite part was rewarding our group with pizza when we had success making power from wood and garbage—partially because of what it meant and partially because pizza.

How did this trip impact you?
I was pretty prepared to see the poverty I know exists in Africa. I was more surprised how alike we are, actually. Liberians want to be Americans, and call themselves "little America." I do feel like I came back with a renewed appreciation for the luxuries we possess in this country and a sense of duty to deserve the love the Liberians have for us.

What was the most valuable part of the experience?
I enjoyed the gasifiers finally working towards the end of the trip as well as the conversations we had in the car while driving around. This is when we learned the most about the culture and the people we were working with.

That’s awesome. Do you think this experience will be beneficial to you in the future?
Yeah, I have a more well-rounded mindset when looking at the world, and I'll always have this experience in the back of my mind when I work on other projects as an engineer; I'll keep an eye out for processes and technologies that can be applied to other communities in need.

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