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PEC engineer to help design Guatemalan school

Wes Britson, structural engineer, was in Cho Estancia, Guatemala, as part of the Wichita State University (WSU) chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

The group met with area leaders and residents to design an addition to the community’s grade school, to double its capacity. In addition to Britson, the group included a number of WSU engineering students and a WSU engineering faculty member.

Several engineering challenges made designing the addition more complex than one for a school located in the U.S. The area has four active volcanoes, and (at the time) just experienced an earthquake. In addition, the community’s resources were extremely limited, so only affordable and accessible local materials could be used in the design.

Despite the limitations, it was built to U.S. building standards.

“The last thing we want to do is design something that will not serve those folks well. The structure has to be very economical, but extremely durable. It’ll be as safe as what you’d find here, and won’t cause them any problems,” Britson explained. “I have no doubt we can do that for them.”

The group returned to the U.S. and engineered the final design with the input they’re presently gathering from the Guatemalan residents.

The group returned to Cho Estancia and provided construction oversight. Volunteers, including parents whose children attend the school, provided labor for the school’s addition.

Funding for the project was arranged through Engineers Without Borders, which entailed fundraising in both the U.S. and Guatemala.