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NSF GK-12 International Activities


University of Cincinnati (UC)
Science and Technology Enhancment Program

Location of International Experience
The town of Shirati in the Tarime District of Tanzania located in North Central Tanzania on Lake Victoria bordering Kenya

Description of Partners and Discipline/Research Focus
U.S. Partners include the University of Cincinnati Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the UC student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Additional U.S. partners include the Cincinnati-based Non Government Organization (NGO) Shirati Health Education and Development Foundation (SHED). The focus of the research is environmental health engineering and appropriate technology to deliver drinking water, sanitation, and to improve nutrition.

As part of prior NSF GK-12 STEP funding, Ms. Sarah Pumphrey, a MS candidate at the University of Cincinnati, has visited Shirati, Tanzania, for two weeks in October 2005, October 2006, and June 2007. During each of these visits, Sarah progressed in her research to identify appropriate technology to provide safe drinking water and access to sanitation for the villagers of Shirati. Sarah used her experiences in Africa to develop a STEM lesson for Cincinnati Public High School students who built materials for sifting sand which were subsequently taken to Tanzania and used by villagers to construct slow sand filters for drinking water.

Working in Africa as part of a research project is a challenge because the individuals from the United States must invest significant effort to comprehend the local context of engineering challenges. It would be easier to simply apply Western solutions to problems in Africa, but this approach ignores the complex societal context of Africa. Thus, a major challenge for this research is to invest time to develop effective partnerships with local villagers in Shirati so that a two-way dialogue is established and the local villagers assume ownership of appropriate technological solutions to their self-identified priorities.

Future Plans
Ms. Sarah Pumphrey, a recent NSF GK-12 STEP Fellow, will work in Shirati from October 2007 through April 2008 as part of her ongoing MS thesis project to examine appropriate technologies for drinking water and sanitation in and around Shirati. Sarah's faculty advisor, Dr. Daniel B. Oerther (STEP-Co-PI), will travel with Sarah in October, and Dr. Anant R. Kukreti (STEP PI) will lead a group of two NSF GK-12 fellows, and two STEP teachers to visit Sarah in January 2008. The purpose of the group visit is for exchange of STEM teaching modules from Cincinnati to Shirati and the development of authentic STEM teaching modules using Shirati as an example to energize the local classrooms in Cincinnati Public Schools. Another NSF program will provide NSF REU support for an undergraduate engineering student, Ms. Elizabeth Dixon, to spend October 2007 through April 2008 in Tanzania to accompany Sarah.

Profile date: August 2007

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