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By Carmen House
Office of University Communications
November 16, 2012      
Howard Students GEAR UP To Make a Global Difference

Paige Piggott

WASHINGTON – People in Kenya could soon be benefitting from a waste treatment plant that captures methane gas for use as a biofuel. In Indonesia, city residents in Jakarta will have the use of clean water from a recharge pond. In Ethiopia, more people located in small villages will have access to electricity. All of these improvements are the result of research projects by Howard University students in the GEAR UP program.

GEAR UP (Global Education, Awareness and Research Undergraduate Program) is spearheaded by the College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences. The program is supported by the National Science Foundation. The goal is to increase the global engagement of graduates in engineering and other sciences through study and research abroad.

The Institute of International Education estimates that only 4.7 percent of engineering graduates have studied abroad. For African-American students, the percentage is even smaller.  Lorraine Fleming, Ph.D., the GEAR UP director and a professor of civil engineering, said students from the college need study abroad experience.

 “Students come back with a new awareness and perspective on life,” she said.  “Students realize the world doesn’t center on us. It’s not U.S.-centric.”

Kinyata Cooper, a chemistry junior, is working on the Kenya project. Cooper created a prototype that the Dandora waste treatment plant can use to capture methane gas.

“It’s always nice to say you want to impact the world,” Cooper said.  “But to be submerged in a totally different culture and meet people who are just like you and seeing the issues they face created a more concrete sense of purpose.”

Cameron A. Sanders, a civil engineering senior, said he also has broadened his research experience through the GEAR UP program. Sanders, whose study centered on the recharge pond project in Jakarta, said his research into water quality in the region will have an immediate impact on the people’s lives. He said the data from his study supports theories that he learned in the classroom. Now, he says, steps can be taken to provide better management for the pond.

“Other students should know that this is an opportunity available to very few students,” Sanders said. “The fact that you will be able to conduct research at a university outside of the United States should be enough to the GEAR UP program.”

Paige Piggott, a mechanical engineering junior, is a veteran of the GEAR UP program. This past summer, she conducted research on denial of service attacks on the web at the Universidad Santo Tomas in Chile. Her project in 2011 involved the development of renewable energy sources in Ethiopia. She hopes the research, which was undertaken at the University of Bahir Dar, will someday provide more electricity to small villagers in the country.

“GEAR UP also allowed me to gain experience in a field that I may not have otherwise explored,” she said.

Fleming said many inernational universities are requesting Howard students to participate in research projects, but funding restraints limit the number of students who can participate. However, she said she hoped that more resources could be allocated to help fund and sustain the program in the future.

 “I would like it to become a part of the Howard culture,” Fleming said.

 Howard University Office of University Communications,
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Suite 603, Washington, D.C. 20059
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