CSU, Chico News

Student-Designed Water Drilling Rig to Benefit Community in Tanzania

Date: 05-31-2013

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
Greg Watkins
Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and Sustainable Manufacturing

A hydraulic water drilling rig designed by a team of senior mechanical engineering students from California State University, Chico will be sent to a community in Tanzania, Africa, to improve its residents’ access to clean water.

The students, all of whom graduated May 26, completed the rig as part of a capstone design course final project, which pairs students with community sponsors to complete real-life design projects. The group was paired with the Kilolo Star Well Drillers, a nonprofit group in East Africa sponsored and coordinated by Chico attorney Ron Reed. Since 2007, Reed has been building and shipping hydraulic drills to the Kilolo district of Tanzania and training youth and young adults there to operate and maintain rigs and wells. Reed and local real estate broker Tim Edwards sponsored the rig’s building and testing.

The CSU, Chico students’ design improves upon Reed’s original one by replacing a manual winch and chain drive with a hydraulic lift and control valve, significantly reducing the effort needed to operate the drill. The new design also allows the operator to reach water at far greater depths – the water table is found at 300 feet or more below ground in some areas of the Kilolo district – with greater reliability and fewer maintenance problems. The students’ rig is also designed to hold up better in transportation over the rough African roads than previous models.

Since 2007, the Kilolo Star Well Drillers have drilled 350 wells, which collectively provide clean water for 30 villages. The wells provide employment for the drillers. They also reduce or eliminate the hours that women and children spend walking each day to fetch surface water that is often contaminated from animal use.

CSU, Chico mechanical engineering professor and capstone project faculty advisor Greg Watkins said while all capstone projects are designed to provide students with valuable design experience while benefitting sponsors with low-cost creative design solutions, the Kilolo water project stands out.

“This particular project could be considered a ‘win-win-win,’ because it also will improve the lives of the people of Tanzania,” he said, adding that without the altruism of the sponsors and the hard work of the students, the projects would not have been possible.

Other capstone projects created by student engineering design teams for local companies were an automated solar panel cleaning system for Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, a small-scale biodiesel pre-processing unit for Springboard Biodiesel and a sample rice dryer for Lundberg Family Farms.

To learn more about the capstone engineering project, visit http://www.ecst.csuchico.edu/srproject/. To learn more about the Kilolo Star Well Drillers, visit http://kilolostar.org/.


Photo: Mechanical engineering student Katlynn Lawrence, who graduated May 26, 2013, works on the hydraulic drill rig her team designed for a capstone course final project.