VOLUME 13, NO. 2 NOVEMBER 2000
Boudreau sets off for a ride on a desert ATV.
Kociuk, Li and Boudreau in Ifrane, Morocco
Juniors Jason Boudreau, Nicolas Kociuk and Debbie Li spent two months last fall in Ifrane, Morocco, looking at energy resources and their impact on the local environment for WPI's first Interactive Qualifying Project in that African nation.
The IQP resulted from talks between officials at the School of Science and Engineering at Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI) and WPI civil and environmental engineering Professor Tahar El-Korchi. "The topic was proposed by Dr. Bachir Raissouni, dean of engineering at AUI, who has strong ties to Ifrane," says El Korchi, who served as project advisor. "The students were excited about helping the local community assess its heating energy needs, and explore the sustainability of heating with wood and the potential for future deforestation."
A city of about 20,000 residents, most of whom are farmers, Ifrane is located in the Atlas Mountains of the Western Sahara between Rabat, the capital, and Fes and is known as a resort and ski destination for the wealthy. Boudreau, Kociuk and Li researched energy consumption among the city's residents, businesses and public services and studied the man-agement and condition of local forests.
They surveyed residents to learn about the demographics of their households and to determine what they used for heating and cooking, and they talked with individuals at pharmacies and the local hospital to uncover energy-related health risks. What they found was that 95.2 percent of those surveyed used wood as their major energy source, businesses were major consumers, and burning wood contributed to such health problems as carbon monoxide poisoning and burns.
In their report they recommended that the city government subsidize the cost of butane for heating, reduce wood consumption by increasing the efficiency of stoves, increase insulation in rooms that require heating, and consider using alternative fuels from existing natural resources, such as acorns.
Away from their research, the project team experienced many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, including riding camels and visiting mosques and bazaars. "The land is extremely beautiful," says Li. "Life is very peaceful and there is always more to see and do."
Kociuk believes that future IQPs or other projects will be able to build on their IQP's data and conclusions and focus on resolving some of the problems they found. "Our project could well be the catalyst for solutions to problems related to energy use in Ifrane." Boudreau agrees. "We realize that this is a big project, but we've done the groundwork and have come up with recommendations that, hopefully, can be built upon."
El-Korchi is equally upbeat about WPI's first project in Morocco. "The students had an excellent experience with the culture, the food and the language," he says. "And, of course, they became quite familiar with the common saying, 'In Shaa Allah,' which means 'God willing.' Based on this positive experience, we hope to send more students there for future IQP work. In Shaa Allah."
Editor's note: WPI recently signed an agreement to further explore student/faculty exchanges with the university at Ifrane.
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