The Main Stream

Mar 3, 2011 7:53 AM

UA engineers on a mission to help Haiti rebuild

TUCSON - More than a year ago a massive earthquake destroyed parts of Haiti, but a team of engineers at the University of Arizona is now working to rebuild the country from the bottom up.

A few months after the earthquake, Dr. Robert Fleischman, UA Associate Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, led a team of experts to study the damage in Haiti.

"We saw a lot of damage, a lot of buildings completely pancaked. They are guessing that it is going to take them 10 years to clear the rubble just from the city of Port Au Prince," Fleischman said.

Fleischman realized the clean up was slow and there was a lot of work to be done.

"We understand why these buildings failed it's just that you have an existing infrastructure of buildings that are built the wrong way not a lot of resources to do something about it," Fleischman said.

The problem with the buildings in Haiti, in part, had to do with heavy construction.

"When the ground moves and the weight starts getting sideways, the buildings just couldn't stand up," Fleischman said.

Back from his trip, Fleischman is in the "what next" phase and he has enlisted the help of UA student group Engineers without Borders. Curtis Miles is a UA Civil Engineering Junior and a member of the Haiti Task Force with the UA Chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

"The goal is to find a specific community in need that we can use our engineering skills, structural or water or water engineering related skills, to help implement a solution," Miles said.

The students are hoping they will be able to use what they learn in the classroom to teach the people of Haiti how to rebuild in a sustainable way.

"A lot of the construction that they do is not specifically engineered for earthquake conditions and so learning different construction techniques, can be important," Miles said.

"It's the people of Haiti that can be used to rebuild Haiti," Fleischman said.

The students are hoping to travel to Haiti for an assessment trip this summer.

You can help the UA chapter of Engineers Without Borders by making a contribution. Click here for more information.


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