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Taiwan Tech Students Help Build Sewage Treatment Systems in an Indonesian Community

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Taiwan Tech students traveled to a community in Surabaya, Indonesia, where water resources are scarce, to build sewage and potable water treatment systems, making good use of their engineering expertise. In this international “engineers in action” volunteer service program between Indonesia and Taiwan, Taiwan Tech students constructed filtration devices with their own hands so that tap water can be directly consumed, improving the community’s local water use infrastructure.


There is a sewage problem in Indonesia, where household waste oil and rubbish are poured directly into drainage ditches, affecting the supply of local tap water. As a consequence, the water supply is unstable and frequently unavailable in the daytime. A total of 13 Taiwan Tech students from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Construction Engineering collaborated with Indonesian students at the Surabaya Institute of Technology (ITS) to carry out an 18-day volunteer service project in Kampung Lebak Rejo, a community in the eastern part of Surabaya.


Taiwan Tech President Liao Ching-Jong said that Taiwan Tech has the largest number of Indonesian students of any university in Taiwan. Almost all the students in Taiwan Tech have the opportunity to make friends with Indonesian classmates, and he is glad that Taiwan Tech students could work as volunteers abroad in Indonesia. They learned some Indonesian before departure, gained a better understanding of the local culture of Indonesia, and gave full scope to their engineering expertise to improve the quality of life there. People who were involved included a Taiwan Tech alumnus who is currently teaching at ITS, and this project has been reported by Indonesia’s local media.


Lai Xing-Pei, a volunteer student from the Department of Electrical Engineering, said that the sewage system in the community is very dirty, and the water is almost grey. In order to solve the problem, the volunteer team first examined the water to determine the components and contaminants in it. Then, they set up a sewage treatment system to filter out the oil in the water and to allow the sludge to settle. Although the water filtered in this way can not be directly consumed, it can be used to water flowers or wash cars, which is a great improvement.


Lai Xing-Pei said that as a major in electrical engineering, she has learned about plumbing and pumps. However, she did not know much about inflow, filter materials and environmental engineering. For the purpose of this volunteer service project, she learned everything on her own and gained hands-on experience, which enabled her to see the gap between theory and practice. She cited the example of the first sewage treatment system they devised. The system was designed, and the team also communicated with the manufacturer. Nevertheless, since the truck was unable to enter the community, the size and location of the design had to be readjusted. Incidents like this were a result of the students’ lack of practical experience.


In addition to improving the sewer system, the team also designed a filtering device and connected it with a water pipe so that filtered water could be directly consumed. Therefore, the residents do not have to buy potable water anymore. In addition, the team set up storage tanks to facilitate water storage and access. Lai Xing-Pei said that local residents of her age told her in English that they are very grateful for the help they have been given. She felt this trip has been fulfilling for her.


Another volunteer student from the Department of Electrical Engineering Luo You-Ting said that for him, this volunteer mission was not only challenging but also fun. Although he is familiar with mechanical and electrical control in engineering, he did not know anything about the process and equipment of sewage treatment. In this experience, he has learned a lot from scratch. He felt he not only confirmed his practical ability but also acquired new knowledge, which broadened his horizons.


Luo You-Ting said that because of the unstable tap water supply during the day, community residents had no available water sources, so that they had to extract their own groundwater, which was likely to have been contaminated by domestic wastewater. This assistance for the local construction of a sewage treatment system to resolve the wastewater problem might just be a small start. However, it may bring benefits to the entire environment in the long run. To him, knowing that what they are doing is meaningful motivates him to devote himself more.


In particular, Luo You-Ting was invited by Indonesia's Surabaya Institute of Technology to give a talk at the term opening ceremony for new students to share his experience of the volunteer service project. Luo You-Ting said he was only asked to give the speech four days before the ceremony. He was very nervous and thought about refusing. On second thought, however, he changed his mind because it was a rare opportunity. Eventually, he accepted the challenge and smoothly delivered a good speech.


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