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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

Ideally, Chamberlain said, the course will help those students get comfortable working with those materials.

It won't turn them into experts overnight, he said — they won't be able to leave the course and go to work building houses, for example — but it puts them in a better position to do meaningful development work.

Monday, the class built concrete pavers.

They cut and nailed two-by-fours to make forms and mixed and poured concrete.

Later in the class, students will be designing a compost latrine and learning to dig wells both with diesel drills and by hand.

They'll also learn to build bio-sand filters, a kind of water filtration system that uses a layer of bacteria to remove contaminants from water, and conduct baseline health surveys that will help them figure out how to address the needs of a community and, eventually, how effective their solutions are.

Although the course is offered through the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, it's open to anyone on campus.

Only about half the students in this session are engineering majors, Chamberlain said.

The other come from a range of disciplines — business, international studies, microbiology and pre-med.

Helping others

They also have different plans for the kind of work they want to do, he said. Some, like Humphrey, hope to make a career out of development work.

Others want to be doctors in the U.S. and go on occasional medical mission trips to developing regions. But the one thing the students all have in common, he said, is an interest in trying to better the lives of people in developing communities.

“We have a lot of students who have a desire to do development work,” he said.

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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