Six students participated in the Summer 2021 Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The students started their REU with a week-long virtual “boot camp” that focused on getting to know each other, team building and skill building. The students started on a shared literature review at that time.
The three Illinois students were able to travel to Puerto Rico for several weeks and had opportunities to work on a prototype rainwater harvesting systems, conduct research on their individual projects and engage in community outreach.
Toward the end of the summer, the team focused heavily on finishing the combined literature review and writing individual papers on their projects. Several of the students are continuing work into the school year with the goal of presenting at a symposium in March 2022 in Illinois.
Joshua López Alfonzo
3rd year student in Agricultural Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez
I would like to participate in these projects to learn more about irrigation and/or rainwater purification systems and apply what I learned in my courses. Specifically, this experience will be helpful for me because I want to learn how to set up irrigation systems for local agriculture.
Sophomore in agricultural and biological engineering at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
My long term goal is helping ecosystems recover from environmental stressors such as climate change and pollution. Being able to apply knowledge about Puerto Rico and global economic context from my International Development Economics minor to this opportunity would be invaluable in helping me to engineer better ecological solutions for local communities.
Electrical Engineering at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign – Rising Sophomore
I am excited to learn through experience, and take time off from the classroom to make one of my dreams a reality: hands-on engineering experience within service learning. It means taking time to explore important causes outside my major, and taking the time to meet the colleagues I’ve worked with virtually over the course of this school year. Being Puerto Rican myself, I take this experience to heart and I recognize the importance of bridging the infrastructure gap between the US and the island territory.
Diego Rodriguez Steinhardt
University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez – Agriculture Sciences / Year 6
As a future agriculture extensionist, my work will revolve around community development and the evaluation of natural resource resiliency. Hurricane Maria significantly impacted the fragile state of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure via massive power outages, increased food insecurity, and limiting the availability of potable water. By participating in this program, I aim to learn about the process of building commodity supply chains that are both sustainable and resilient to the inevitable impacts of climate change. I plan to pursue a M.S. in Urban Planning with a focus on improving community development and natural resource management in Puerto Rico.
3rd year student University of Illinois Urbana Champaign in Technical Systems Management
Applying my educational knowledge to real life problems has always been a fruitful experience for me. I want to learn about the fundamental needs to have an energy efficient power supply and attain a realistic understanding of sustainably regulating infrastructure. This would also be a great opportunity to engage in renewable energy solutions which is something I aspire to do in the future.
Rocío Sotomayor Irizarry
5th year – Civil Engineering student at University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez
Since becoming a student, sustainability and resilience for communities have interested me. I feel a need to become involved in these areas because I have noticed that business-as-usual models of constant reactive planning and isolated decision-making do not generate the flexibility and strength needed for communities to thrive. I hope that my involvement in these projects strengthens my mission and vision of utilizing engineering for the well-being of Puerto Rico.