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Contact: Jennifer Judge Hensel

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  A Brazilian student at a school in Congas drinks water out of a water fountain.

Engineering sustainable solutions is not just about the design – it’s about making a long-lasting impact. The Michigan Engineering Pantanal Partnership team is championing that idea as they work to bring knowledge about clean drinking water to children in Brazil.

The U-M water systems team is in the Pantanal region of Brazil this summer with a variety of goals, one of which is to work with the communities to heighten awareness about the importance of clean water. They are conducting workshops in the communities of Cangas and Chumbo, during which they will be examining water purity and building a biosand water filter with the students.

The team’s hope is that students will in turn help spread awareness among the entire community, and that better water sanitation will help alleviate a number of serious diseases that plague the area.

“This is an engineering project with extremely social goals,” said co-leader Greg Ewing, who graduated from the U-M with a bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering in May. “I think, in general, that we should be advocating more of the social engineering aspect.”

The multidisciplinary team has been traveling to the Pantanal, one of the most biologically diverse wetlands in the world, since 2009 in an effort to stop the rural exodus of its local residents to nearby cities. Residents are moving due to lack of fundamental resources – education, healthcare, employment and clean water.

The team is composed of a number of sub-teams, including water systems, waste systems and alternative energy. Each has a task to accomplish while in Brazil this summer, including installing a biodigester and testing a wind power generator.

Read more about the history of the Pantanal Partnership

Panatal Team educates Brazilian students

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The Michigan Engineering Pantanal Partnership Water Systems team is in Brazil this summer, visiting schools in Chumbo to teach children the importance of clean water.

A Brazilian student at a school in Congas drinks water out of a water fountain.

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The U-M Water Systems team, which is part of the Pantanal Partnership organization on the UM campus, conducts workshops in this school in Congas, on the edge of Pantanal, the largest wetlands in the word. University of Michigan students teach kids from a local school the importance of clean drinking water and will build a sand based water filter together.

Grace Hilbert (center) Michigan Engineering student checks on the Brazilian middle school students who are labeling the water they brought from their home wells near Pantanal.

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Grace Hilbert (center) Michigan Engineering student checks on the Brazilian middle school students who are labeling the water they brought from their home wells near Pantanal.

Ethan Shirley talks to the Brazilian students at a school in Chumbo as they check out hair of a bee under a microscope.

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University of Michigan students teach kids from a local school the importance of clean drinking water and will build a sand based water filter together.

Brazilian students in Chumbo rinse off the sand that will be used in a water filter.

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University of Michigan students teach kids from a local school the importance of clean drinking water. They will also build a sand based water filter together. They hope that the kids will in turn educate their parents about the water issues and that better water sanitation will help alleviate a number of serious diseases that plague the area.

Ethan Shirley, member of the Pantanal Partnership teaches a class to Brazilian students at a school in Congas.

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The U-M Water Systems team, which is part of the Pantanal Partnership organization on the UM campus, conducts a series of workshops in a village of Congas, on the edge of Pantanal, the largest wetlands in the word.

A group of Brazilian students in Congas is very excited to see American students at their school.

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University of Michigan students teach kids from a local school the importance of clean drinking water and will build a sand based water filter together. They hope that the kids will in turn educate their parents about the water issues and that better water sanitation will help alleviate a number of serious diseases that plague the area.

A Brazilian student smiles during a workshop at a school in Congas.

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The U-M Water Systems team, which is part of the Pantanal Partnership organization on the UM campus, conducts workshops in a village of Chumbo, on the edge of Pantanal, the largest wetlands in the word.

About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of nearly 70,000 spans the globe.

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