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Engineering in Extreme Environemtns (in Chile)

Engineering is by definition the practice of bringing value to society through the uses of technology. But to create value engineers must learn to work with natural, political, social and cultural resources. Chile provides an excellent case study of a country that has done very well by working with its unique resources to meet some very extreme challenges. As a preliminary theme for the ENGR 290 trip to Chile we have chosen Engineering in Extreme Environments.

Ecologically Chile has the driest desert in the world, the highest peaks outside of Asia, volcanoes, and glaciers, as well as flora and fauna found nowhere else. The population ranges in diversity from the nine recognized indigenous populations to waves of immigrants that have occurred over 500 years. They are proud of their rich agricultural and mining heritage, their culinary accomplishments, and Pisco (their national drink).  Culturally Chile has a produced the poet Pablo Neruda, the architect Mathias Klotz and the groundbreaking scientists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana. They have a long and storied history and are rapidly shifting from a developing country to the most stable economic hub in South America. All of this combines together in a country that is 2600 miles in length but only averages 112 miles in width. Throughout ENGR 290, students will have the opportunity to experience all of this diversity, as well as interact very closely with a wide range of Chileans. 

The goal of ENGR 290 in Chile is for students to experience how technology interacts with such a diverse and extreme environment. During the trip students will visit some of the largest telescopes in the world (a first world infrastructure in an area that is so devoid life that NASA uses it to test Mars life detection capabilities), the largest open mines in the world (with some of the most robust mine safety policies) and the Gran Torre (tallest building in Central and South America and the second tallest building in the southern hemisphere, has withstood the recent 8.8 magnitude earthquake). They will travel on various transportation systems and use the local communication networks, both of which have allowed Chile to stay connected despite its challenging geography.  Lastly, they will engage in a design project (as yet to be determined) with Chilean students from the MADA program (Masters of Innovation and Design at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile) in Villarrica.

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