Member Voices: Building Community in Puerto Rico

Luis Duque, EIT, A.M.ASCE, is a structural engineer at DLK Engineering in Lafayette, Colorado. An active member of ASCE (particularly the Structural Engineering Institute) and Engineers Without Borders, Duque has helped shape the online communities at ASCE Collaborate and Career by Design as a topic moderator.

In today’s Member Voice article, he recaps, with words and his gift for photography, a recent trip he took as a mentor to an EWB student group volunteering in Puerto Rico.

I recently joined a group of five students from the Engineering Without Borders student chapter at the University of Colorado Boulder for a service engineering trip to Puerto Rico to work with the community of Mulas.

community of Mulas in Puerto Rico

During this week-long trip, the students and I gathered important data to design a new water distribution system for the community. During our assessment, we were able to generate a map by gathering GPS data of different points of interest and tracking our steps while exploring every corner of the community.

community of Mulas in Puerto Rico

Other organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, have helped this community in the past, but limited technical assistance has been available since Hurricane Maria in 2017, making our job that much more important.

woman collects data to help design water distribution system

Our main goal for this trip was to gather as much technical information as possible, as well as start conversations and develop a relationship with the leaders of the community.

student in community in Puerto Rico

We were faced with a multitude of challenges, and it was very rewarding seeing the students navigate through these problems on the spot. From flat tires to rough terrains, the students were able to adapt quickly to these situations, making my job as the mentor easier and the trip a success.

man sitting at work site in community in Puerto Rico

We gathered important data, but the most important piece of progress we made during the trip was earning the support and learning the needs of the community. Our work is to provide the community with a better system and allow them to have constant potable water.

man walking through river in Mulas

This trip was the beginning of what will be a long relationship between our volunteer engineers and the community of Mulas.


For more information on the trip, visit Luis’ website or the students’ blog.

Luis also recently appeared on the Structural Engineering Channel podcast. Listen here.

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  1. It is refreshing to see people resolving issues and changing they way people live by providing access to resources. Very inspiring.


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