WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 25, 2010) -- In the classroom, West Point cadets learn how to build paths of cooperation between the United States military and foreign nations in need of assistance. From July 23 to Aug. 6, Class of 2011 Cadet Emeline Hood did just that outside of the classroom...literally.

The Freeland, Pa., native, traveled with Class of 2011 Cadet Sam Yoo, and Cadets Taylor Mosera and David Payne from the Class of 2012, and Maj. James Schreiner, an instructor in the Department of Systems Engineering, to assist the University of Connecticut chapter of Engineers Without Borders - USA in and around Granada, Nicaragua.

There evaluated the conditions of a road that connects the impoverished suburban village of La Prusia to Granada, said Hood. The road serves as the vital link for the people of La Prusia to travel into Granada to work and move supplies into the village.

According to Hood and the EWB-USA website, the road is subject to flooding that makes it impassable during the rainy season. There are also many families that live alongside this road who are affected by the flooding.

The team spent ten days working in the area, surveying the road, gathering technical data and interviewing the people living nearby. They also met with the leader of La Prusia and the mayor of Granada, who told the team about how problems with the road affected their communities.

"I was able to apply stuff I learned from classes (in systems engineering), and also learn about other areas of engineering," Hood said. "It was very successful, and we still have a lot to do on the project."

During their time in the area, Hood and the team were able to come up with cost estimates of materials needed to build improved drainage systems into the road. They also came up with ideas for street lighting and trash removal they can pitch to city hall once the critical problems with the road are solved.

"There are many aspects affecting this project," said Hood, "and as systems engineers, it is our job to keep them all in mind so that this effort will be successful in the long run."

Hood believes this was the perfect opportunity to use skills learned from her Engineering Management major to help the people of a foreign nation. It also allowed her to become familiar with intrapersonal relations, a useful skill in my future Army deployments.

"(Schreiner) kept telling us how this would be really similar to something we would do on a deployment," Hood said. "The biggest difference (was) security, because we were doing a lot of stuff down there and didn't have to worry about that."

This opportunity offered the cadets unique experiences that would not have been possible in a classroom setting. Hood hopes that the team's efforts will help to produce a technical plan to fix the road in order to assist EWB-USA with their mission of improving the quality of life for the people of La Prusia.

"It would mean so much to put to use skills learned from our major to help people far outside the classroom," Hood said.

According to its website, EWB-USA is a non-profit humanitarian organization created to work with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life. The group participates with those communities in order to implement sustainable engineering projects while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students.

Hood documented the West Point team's experiences throughout the project by posting on the Army Strong Stories website, which can be seen at www.armystrongstories.com/blogger/emeline-hood/.