Since the April 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, the densely populated city of Kathmandu, Nepal has been in a state of repair. The Kathmandu Valley has many unreinforced masonry structures, many of which were severely damaged during the Gorkha Earthquake. Nepalese engineers are actively seeking practical solutions to improve Nepal’s seismic resilience. With funding provided by USAID and the Evans Fellowship, Professor Ben Mason and graduate student Rachel Adams were able to attend several trips to Nepal. Dr. Mason visited Kathmandu shortly after the Gorkha Earthquake for post-disaster reconnaissance. After his initial trips, Dr. Mason worked with a group from the U.S. to formulate workshops and training sessions focused around earthquake engineering. Rachel attended two trips in 2016 along with Dr. Mason and the team from the U.S. consisting of professors and members of the United States Geologic Survey (USGS).


During the one-year anniversary conference of the Gorkha Earthquake, experts from around the world came to Nepal to present their work since the earthquake.  At the conference, our group was able to learn what progress had been made in Nepal, and what the country still needed to recover and rebuild their infrastructure to better resist seismic events. We were also able to meet with Nepalese engineers and professors at Tribhuvan University to develop a comprehensive list of topics desired with a focus on earthquake engineering. By working with leaders of the National Society for Earthquake Technology in Nepal (NSET), we were able to organize a week long earthquake engineering workshop for Nepalese engineers that contained topics within structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, and seismology.


The earthquake engineering workshop was a very successful event that piqued the interest of Nepalese engineers. Following the completion of the workshop, more topics for subsequent workshops were requested and a collaborative relationship has been established for future work. The travel experience was also very valuable to the visitors from the U.S. The Nepalese have proved to be extraordinarily resilient following the Gorkha Earthquake. We can learn much from their efforts and spirit. The trip was also scientifically valuable as Nepal has many similarities in landscape and seismic hazard as the Pacific Northwest. We too are faced with an impending earthquake from a subduction zone fault boundary. We too live in a pronounced valley with extensive surrounding hillslopes prone to landslides. It has been a great opportunity to establish an international collaborative project which will help engineers develop creative solutions to face natural hazards.


We are very thankful for our colleague, Diwakar Khadka (Nepalese geotechnical engineer), for his perspective and time committed in showing our team sites of great importance around the Kathmandu Valley.


During their senior year at OSU, mechanical engineers, Brianna, Brian, and Grace, worked with TERREWODE, a Ugandan NGO and other partners in Oregon to enhance an income generating soap-making operation to benefit women in Uganda who suffer from obstetric fistula. Obstetric fistula is a horrific condition that can occur during childbirth and is preventable with maternal medical care and intervention services. TERREWODE is not only working to treat these women, but also give them skills to to generate income and empower them.
This project is especially exciting because the idea to make soap actually came from TERREWODE’s founder, Alice Emasu.  Joni Kabana, a photographer from Portland, Oregon, brought a gift of goat milk soap made near her home in Eastern Oregon to TERREWODE. The women receiving the gift were extremely excited and Alice had the idea that they could make this soap and use it as a way to make an income.
So how do OSU engineering students fit in to this project? Brianna, Brian, and Grace were asked to apply engineering design principles and methods to test and evaluate potential soap-making process improvements and determine scalability. Through the course of their senior year at OSU, the team made numerous batches of soap, employing various techniques and strategies to not only create the best output, but also the best process which would be easy to reproduce in rural Uganda.
One of the most interesting aspects of this project was designing for the people and culture where this process will be used. Although rural Uganda does have electricity it can be very inconsistent. The team made it a goal to find a way to make the process functional off-grid and built a prototype solar paneled system using resources available in the US.

The team set off for Uganda during the summer of 2016, days after their graduation ceremony at OSU.  They spent three weeks working with TERREWODE and the women they support. During their stay, the team researched soap-making ingredient sourcing, available solar solutions, process enhancements, and potential fragrances.

While the women at TERREWODE made over 200 bars of soap, the team observed and analyzed the process to provide engineering feedback. Some adjustments to the soap-making process included the change in batch size, creation of templates for cutting the bars evenly, and recommendations for cooling/storage racks.  As a final deliverable, the team provided TERREWODE with an extensive written report regarding all the process adjustments and recommendations, suggestions for scalability, and solar solution recommendations.
Overall, the team had an incredible experience in Uganda! They want to thank the many OSU faculty and donors for the amazing opportunity.

NOTE: No photos of the TERREWODE obstetric fistula survivors were posted to respect their privacy.