Projects with Underserved Communities students assist countries around the world with engineering and social work

Alyssa Weinstein

With service projects ranging from an education center to a water filtration system for schoolchildren, the engineering and social work students of Projects with Underserved Communities have devoted themselves to a yearlon commitment to serve disadvantaged communities globally.

PUC is a collaborative program between UT’s International Office, the Cockrell School of Engineering and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

The less than 30 students who enrolled in PUC are divided into four different teams: Team India, Team Mexico, Team Thailand 1 and Team Thailand 138. 

“(PUC) is like Doctors Without Borders, but it’s Engineers Without Borders,” said Gabriela Kackley, project manager of Team Mexico and mechanical engineering junior. “To me, this is what engineering is really about — which is communication, teamwork and creating things that help other people.”

The PUC students were assigned their country and project in fall 2017. Since then, they have planned the concept from scratch — while collaborating with professors, social workers and people in foreign countries — and will physically implement the projects in May.

Team India will construct a 20-foot multipurpose learning sector for the village of Sirupinayur. Team Mexico has been creating a greenhouse structure to be used to dry mesquite pods that are used as protein supplements in food for the malnourished people of Santiago Suchilquitongo, Oaxaca, a town in southwestern Mexico.


“I really hope that we’ll have a positive impact on the community and that we’ll create a learning center that is culturally appropriate,” said Michael Ramirez, project manager for Team India and civil engineering senior.

Additionally, Team Thailand 1 will be providing electricity and water to wash dishes and provide lunch for schoolchildren at the Ban Thap Ta Thaen School in the Suphan Buri Province of Thailand. The second team for Thailand, Team Thailand 138, is creating a water treatment system and sink structure for the 138 students at the Ban Huai Yang Elementary School in rural west Thailand.

Biomedical engineering junior Taylor Holland said PUC has allowed students to use their education in a real-world setting.

“I’ve just never been around so many people who are so dedicated to making a change in the world,” said Holland, risk, safety and quality manager for Team Thailand 138. “These people have given their blood, sweat, tears and time to make these projects work to benefit these communities.”