The water supply system in Oku, Cameroon is in desperate need of rehabilitation and extension; kids are dying from typhoid and diarrhea as a result of drinking from contaminated streams. But to design improvements properly, reliable water flow information must be collected for a year. We teach 200 kids in six Oku schools how to measure and calculate water flow, providing a powerful real life application of geometry and complex arithmetic skills, and supplying engineers essential information.
Of the 17 villages in Oku, 13 need system improvements to avoid shortages of clean water during the dry season and 11 need new catchments and pipes to supply clean water to currently unserved areas. Until this work is done, villagers get water from polluted streams for at least part of the year, resulting in disease and, especially among young children, death. Before this work can be undertaken, accurate stream flow information is needed to properly size the improvements.
By teaching kids to collect stream flow data, we can provide them with a dramatic real-world application of their math skills. They will need to calculate the volume of the bucket they will measure with, average their readings on a given day, calculate the average litres per second measured, and translate this into a reading for litres per minute. Putting their math lessons to work to save their community from water-borne disease will help cement their knowledge and inspire future engineers.
This project can not only save lives by laying the groundwork for desperately needed new water treatment and distribution facilities, but may help avoid the problems that lead to the mis-sizing and poor design of the original facilities by inspiring new generations of engineers.