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University of Oklahoma students learn skills needed to work in developing regions

A new University of Oklahoma summer intersession course seeks to prepare students to work in developing regions. The class starts essentially from square one — most of the students haven't handled power tools. Many haven't even hammered nails.
by Silas Allen Published: May 15, 2012

— As Anna Humphrey lifted a circular saw, lined it up against a pencil mark on a piece of lumber and began to cut, something crossed her mind.

I could really hurt somebody with this thing, she thought.

Humphrey, 22, is a part of a new course at the University of Oklahoma designed to teach students like Humphrey how to work in developing countries.

Humphrey, a fifth-year undergraduate, hails from Fort Worth, Texas.

After Humphrey graduates, she'd like to do water resources work in a developing country, either through a corporation or a nongovernmental organization. But there's a problem, she said.

“I've never built my own stuff before,” said Humphrey, an environmental engineering major. She said she had used smaller hand tools like hammers and nails, but she hadn't handled power tools before.

Her classes are lectures or lab-based, she said, and they typically don't delve far into manual labor.

Even outside of school, she hasn't had many experiences that would call for power tools.

“I'm a city girl,” she said.

Practical experience

Jim Chamberlain, the course instructor, said students like Humphrey are the reason the course exists.

Most of them have limited, or no experience working with materials like concrete block and PVC pipe — exactly the materials they'd be using in those regions.

The course is offered through OU's Water Technologies for Emerging Regions Center, or WaTER Center, a part of the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science. It runs six hours a day through OU's summer intersession, which began Monday.

The class starts essentially from square one, Chamberlain said. Most of the students haven't handled power tools. Many haven't even hammered nails. But nearly all of them want to work in developing regions in one capacity or another.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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