Thursday, July 19, 2018

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Kensey Daly, president of the SDSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, with EWB adviser Julio Valdes. Photo: Gary Payne Kensey Daly, president of the SDSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, with EWB adviser Julio Valdes. Photo: Gary Payne

Wellspring of Conviction

Kensey Daly leads the SDSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

This story is featured in the spring 2014 issue of 360:The Magazine of San Diego State University.

Three years ago, Kensey Daly discovered that tropical plants aren’t the only things that grow in the dense jungles of Honduras. They are a place for personal growth, too.

Working with the indigenous people of Tejeras, an isolated community near the country’s northern coast, she unearthed a wellspring of conviction and tenacity that has taken her to places where few students would venture.

Daly is president of the San Diego State chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a nonprofit that partners with developing communities to improve their quality of life.

EWB Aztecs took on the Tejeras project in 2010. With each successive visit, they have come closer to completing a water system that addresses the community’s seasonably varying supply, sediment-laden water and ineffective disinfection.

This spring, the SDSU chapter begins a second project in Darien Province, Panama. Daly and a half dozen other Aztecs will conduct an initial assessment, guided by faculty advisor Julio Valdes, a professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering.

They will meet with representatives from the NGO that operates a farm intended to supply the community’s nutritional needs.  Without rainwater to sustain the farm in the dry season, the people resort to using heavily polluted water from a local river.

“Darien is surrounded by gorgeous mountains and greenery, so the villages seem charming at first,” said Daly, who made a brief assessment visit last summer. “But when you see it day after day, you realize the terrible poverty that exists.”

On campus, the environmental engineering major is involved in research that may ultimately benefit the Darien community. She is manager for a team research project to create a filtration device with pores that adapt to the size of particulates in the water.

Daly also received the SDG&E College of Engineering Mentorship Program Award, which pairs her with a mentor from SDG&E’s emerging technologies division in order to broaden her engineering knowledge.

By all measures, Daly is on track to fulfill her childhood resolve “to protect nature and help those who don’t have access to natural resources.”