Feature story image, Grace Burleson teaching Ugandan children

Winter 2016 — Grace Burleson, a senior in mechanical engineering, recently completed a research project that analyzed water treatment methods in developing countries. Burleson traveled to Mbale, a town in eastern Uganda, to work with a local organization called MAPLE Microdevelopment.

“After two months of research in Mbale, I developed a business plan to hire and train locals to build, market and sell Biosand filters to their local community,” Burleson said. “MAPLE will subsidize the cost of the filters when these individuals sell them to the community, so that even (those with the least amount of resources) can afford them.”

Biosand filters can be constructed with local materials, and are used predominantly in underdeveloped countries where access to drinkable water is limited. Lack of access to clean, drinkable water is the number one threat to a community according to the World Health Organization, and around 800 million people worldwide are living without this basic resource. Burleson’s research and business plan will help communities struggling to provide drinking water to their citizens by offering them a process to treat their water and an opportunity for economic growth.

Grace Burleson and Ugandans conversing

“The locals in Uganda were so excited to hear about my project,” Burleson said. “That gave me confidence and made me realize that it is possible to really make a difference in people’s lives just by using the skills you already have.”

Burleson’s experience in Uganda nurtured her passion for international development and has inspired her to pursue this field of work after graduation.

“Spending two months in Uganda was one of the most fulfilling and challenging things I have ever done. If it weren’t for my connections and involvement at Oregon State, I would have never had this amazing opportunity,” she said.

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