John Dias, ‘13

Major:
Civil Engineering

Project:
An Investigation of Wastewater Management Options for the Community of Fatima, Costa Rica. In the community of Fatima in Desamparados, Costa Rica, the residents currently discard untreated wastewater in the Quebrada Padre. This has caused the water quality in the river to degrade. Our first goal was to assess the residents’ perceptions of the river conditions and their wastewater disposal methods through interviews and a site assessment. Results indicated that residents had mixed perceptions of the river and may not know how their wastewater is disposed. We then evaluated wastewater management options based on maintenance, cost, constructability, durability, safety, and effectiveness. We recommended that the existing household infrastructure be connected to the existing municipal sewer to improve the quality of the Quebrada Padre. Construction of connecting the infrastructure to the existing sewer has commenced due to our research.

Why I chose this project:
I had an internship the previous summer dealing with water flow, storm drain installation, and overall wastewater management. I believed that the knowledge I had gained from the internship would help me contribute to the group’s efforts.

What I learned from my IQP:
I learned that collecting data by survey or personal interview is not as easy as it appears. However, with the data the group collected, I also learned good ways to categorize data. As for making recommendations, I learned how to properly analyze data received from research and, in turn, propose the best solution according to the factors the group determined.

How I have benefitted from my IQP as a person and a student:
I have benefitted greatly from my IQP. As a person, I learned good teamwork skills, such as how to communicate, how to adapt to decisions, and how to give and take criticism, which I feel can often be a subject many people struggle with.

As a student, I learned how to write. As someone who has always excelled in math and science and not so much in critical reading and writing skills, I felt learning how to write was a large step. Writing professionally is a skill that I will need no matter what my job may be.

How this experience made me stronger in my field:
The IQP improved my teamwork and writing skills. I also learned to stay focused on the big goal while still completing little tasks. Everything that you do in a project should benefit the bigger goal. Finally, my IQP taught me to think creatively-outside the box. There’s not always one direct solution to solving a real-world problem; determining new, innovative ways to solve a problem may be better than the original solution.

What I accomplished:
I helped write a 75-page professionally written paper, I presented in Spanish to the residents of Fatima, I presented to government officials of the Costa Rica Water Works, I increased my knowledge about wastewater management, and last but not least, I experienced the Costa Rican culture while still completing a project that left an impact in the community of Fatima.

Additional comments about the project system in general at WPI:
The project system is one of the main reasons I came to WPI. It allows students to get out from behind the desk and take on solving a real-world problem in an environment similar to the business world. It allows students to be eased into the working world instead of jumping right into it after four years of sitting behind a desk and completing homework. We are one step closer to being professionals than students of other colleges or universities. And for that reason, it truly makes WPI students stand out in the competitive business world.

 
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