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  • Esther Wairimu, left, and Margaret Hegwood in a mini-Purdue Utility Project vehicle in Kenya last summer. The mini-PUP provides transportation and social mobility when students learn engineering skills. / Photo credits Dr. John Lumkes.
    Esther Wairimu, left, and Margaret Hegwood in a mini-Purdue Utility Project vehicle in Kenya last summer. The mini-PUP provides transportation and social mobility when students learn engineering skills. / Photo credits Dr. John Lumkes.
  • Dearborn, Mich. — This year’s bonus for the domestic 2017 Ford College Community Challenge winners was a worldwide effort for the Purdue University and Tumaini students.

    “I think winning the $10K challenge is really a testament to the strength of our partnership with the Tumaini Innovation Center. We had friends and community members – from the U.S. and Kenya alike – voting to support our project because they believe in its power to create positive change,” said Margaret Hegwood, a graduate student in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue.

    Hegwood has worked with faculty project advisor Dr. John Lumkes in other capacities since Fall 2016, but it was this past Spring she began working more closely with the Purdue Utility Project team. Experienced working with farmers and international agriculture, Hegwood helps with market analysis and impact assessment for the mini-PUP vehicles. “We want to make sure this is the appropriate technology to meet the needs of farmers in Kenya,” she said in an e-mail.

    The $10,000 will fund the building of a fourth mini-PUP, hosting demonstration days, training area farmers to make and maintain the vehicle, and provide services using the PUP vehicles, along with additional engineering education and technical training opportunities for students vulnerable to life on the street. The funding will also create more economic opportunities, including leasing the mini-PUP within the community, as well as advancing sustainable agriculture and transportation within the local farming community.

    Tumaini Innovation Center

    Hegwood traveled to Kenya to interview farmers in Eldoret and the surrounding Uasin Gishu county this summer. As the teaching assistant she also supervised the PUP team students and helped with procurement, engineering education, and budgeting. However, not all education was directly related to engineering.

    “While individual interviews are a wonderful experience of their own, my most memorable moment had to be Jenga Vijana [Build the Youth]. This was a parade where we walked (and danced!) from the center of Eldoret to Tumaini Center.

    “Some of the Tumaini students drove the original 2016 PUP vehicle as part of the parade. This was when I realized that this vehicle is more than a design project- it is also an innovation that will become an integral part of the story in Eldoret and has the potential to change the lives of farmers and students alike,” the Lafayette, Ind., student wrote.

    PUP team members give a lot of time, and their dedication to this project was in action this past summer. Guided by Dr. Lumkes, team leader David Wilson, and Hegwood, students Levi Bays, Anna Berghoff, Daniel Gentillini, Adam Hemmelgarn, David Hoglund, Skylar Kim, Peter Starr and Ryan Toth worked in Kenya. Some of the team members are now alumni, who’ve taken lessons learned from Purdue and Tumaini into their professions.

    Hegwood said, “I am so grateful to everyone who voted and to the Ford Motor Company Fund for providing us with the opportunity to continue our work.”