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Vermont Tech Engineering Students Reach Out to the World

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Vermont Tech students installed a solar water heater at Camp Joshua Christian School in Tanzania.

Vermont Tech students installed a solar water heater at Camp Joshua Christian School in Tanzania.

College is about more than books and classes. It’s about learning how to put your newfound knowledge to use in the broader world.

In June, four Vermont Technical College students had a chance to find that out.

Vermont Tech, which has about 1,600 students across 11 campuses and distance-learning sites, asks seniors to create a capstone project before they graduate. This spring semester, engineering students Chris Sabatino, Jarek Hammerl, Cory Dalsimer and Drew Gough developed and built a solar water tank appropriate for developing countries.

And in June, they got a chance to travel to Tanzania in East Africa to install it at Camp Joshua Christian School, run by LOHADA, a Tanzanian nonprofit serving young children and the elderly. The school is located in one of the poorest slums of Arusha, a town in the northern part of Tanzania. The water heater will give students and staff access to hot water for cooking and bathing. It does not require electricity but uses trapped solar heat cycled through copper pipes and a water mixer to raise the water in the tank to about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The school had been using wood to heat water.

The Vermont Tech students worked closely with Professor Emeritus Ken Vendermark of the school’s Electrical Engineering Technology Department, who is on the LOHADA board of directors. The June trip was his fourth to Tanzania and the students’ first.

Other Vermont Tech students got a chance to see the prototype of the heater on campus. It featured a 200-liter water tank perched above a large, black sun catcher.

“Ideally it will do even more than the 200 liters,” Jarek said. “With a thermosiphon system, the idea is to draw from it throughout the day and not just all at once.”

The goal is for the Tanzanian water heater to be as low-maintenance as possible. A team of high school students from LOHADA’s post-secondary school will be trained in how to fix and provide upkeep for the system. Some of the LOHADA students will make smaller versions for a science class taught by the Vermont Tech students.

“I really like working with things,” Jarek said. “Thinking through something, drawing it out, talking with the team, and really getting to see it built is a dream come true.”

Professor Emeritus Ken Vandermark, center, worked with Vermont Tech students, left to right, Chris Sabatino, Jaerk Hammerl, Cory Dalsimer and Drew Gough to build a solar water heater for a Tanzanian school.

At Vermont Tech, we know how to help students put their dreams into action. And the greater world seems to appreciate their efforts. Our graduating classes average a 95 percent placement rate for employment or advanced education. And we ranked fifth out of 20 Vermont colleges for highest post-graduate salaries, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.

In her 2017 commencement address, Vermont Tech President Patricia Moulton asked students to be part of the change that makes the world “a better, stronger, more respectful and tolerant place.”

All of us at Vermont Tech take those words to heart. Contact us to find out how you can be part of the change.

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