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Engineering students travel to Honduras, install prototype

No electricity. Life off the grid. A responsibility to save lives. This is what a mission in Honduras looks like. This is the mission Oklahoma Christian University engineering students will contribute to 16 days from now.

Predisan, a non-profit ministry, provides healthcare to the rural mountain villages of Honduras. Most of the clinics, old and rundown, are in desperate need of repairs to keep their ministry alive. This is where Oklahoma Christian steps in.

The organization has to have a cost-effective way to refrigerate all of their vaccines. They reached out to Oklahoma Christian’s engineering department to see if they could come up with a low-cost prototype, made with office shelves and powered by alternative energy.

According to the Predisan website, families in Honduras suffer from “preventable disease and lack of basic healthcare and nutrition.” Through their project, Oklahoma Christian seniors Austin Blount, Lynsi Stanley and Shannon Fultz will help to solve this problem.

“I am excited to go to Honduras because it will be really cool to see this project from its design phase to its actual implementation,” Blount said. “It will also be amazing to see how our hard work for the last three semesters will benefit the people that the Las Marias clinic serves.”

This project is a part of a senior capstone project, which is required for graduation. Mechanical engineering professor Debra Wood worked with the students as a team mentor. In addition to providing feedback on the student’s presentations and reports, Wood has had the opportunity to watch her students grow.

“It is always fun to get to watch these students on these capstone projects,” Wood said. “They had no idea what they were doing. It is this big, loosely defined project, and it is hard to know where to even get started. I’ve seen their confidence grow; they have become engineers.”

The students’ main goal during their time in Honduras is to install their prototype in one of the clinics.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to install a system in one of the clinics,” Stanley said. “We want to make the installation process as easy and straightforward as possible. Many of us go into engineering to actively make a difference in the world, and my team has been given the opportunity to directly impact a community in need of basic access to health and medicine.”

Wood, who has been to Honduras several times, said she is excited for her students to have a new and challenging experience.

“I am looking forward to seeing the students there, to see what it takes to travel to these clinics,” Wood said. “Because this takes driving [on] awful muddy roads and it can take five hours to get somewhere. I’m just really excited for them to get that experience and for them to see something that they have worked on for a year and a half and see it actually built and working.”

According to Blount, in majors like mechanical engineering, it is not easy to integrate knowledge with faith. He said this project has given him this rare opportunity.

“This project as a whole has provided me [the] opportunity to fly to Honduras and be on the team that installs the first prototype in an area where it will benefit many people,” Blount said. “It is nice to be at a university that is willing and able to facilitate this integration.”

While Predisan will cover the actual cost of the equipment, the students are raising additional funds to cover the cost of travel. Still, the team is prepared to continue their work in Honduras.

“I am really excited about the whole project,” Wood said, “I think that missions and humanitarian work is what Oklahoma Christian is about, and I want to see us do this every year. I think it’s a great way to get our engineering students to help and experience that type of thing. Plus, it is just what we do and is the whole mission of Oklahoma Christian.”

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