St. Thomas students develop device to assist refugees in Jordan

Five St. Thomas University engineering students traveled more than 6,000 this year to make a difference.

“It’s awesome to do a project in school and have a direct impact on people on the other side of the world,” said Nick Turch, a St. Thomas student.

Their studies landed them in Jordan, where they spent seven weeks working on a device that could generate economic growth for refugee women.

“We essentially built this dehydrator from the bottom up,” said Turch.

Their dehydration system speeds up the production of a popular Jordanian ingredient known as Jameed. Jameed stones are churned for hours before becoming a smooth yogurt-like substance.

“Currently, they are only allowed to produce this product during the summer months,” said Brett Marshall, a St. Thomas student.

“They produce this in the summer because it’s hot and that’s when the sun is out,” said Turch. “They want to be able to produce this year-round, so our goal is to come up with those conditions.”

The dehydrator could make it possible for refugee women to produce Jameed anytime of the year.

“That means the women who are working at the co-op can stay employed year-round and they can support themselves financially, especially since some of these women are widows and Syrian refugees,” said Kelly Mallon, a St. Thomas student.

This week, the seniors showcased their dehydrator on campus.

“We have a machine, it works, it turns on, it heats up, it creates a uniform temperature inside and that’s what we’re showing,” said Joe Lee, a St. Thomas student.

The group will be graded on what they have accomplished so far. They say the device is still a work in progress, but it has the potential to change lives.

“It is definitely not an experience I will ever forget,” said Derek Van, a St. Thomas student.