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Building clay houses and friendships

3:58 PM  Sep 11th, 2017
by Cari Zahn ’18

It wasn’t being homesick. It wasn’t the culture shock. It wasn’t being on her own in India.

The biggest adjustment Andrea Mott ’18 had to make during her three-month excursion to India this summer as part of the Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities (ETHOS) program was changing her engineering habits and adjusting to her work environment.

India, according to Mott, presented many engineering challenges: resource availability was limited, power outages halted work for hours, and structure for assignments and project schedules was nowhere to be found.

What Mott did have was a major project to complete and only three months to adapt to a new system.

The goal? To build a six-meter tall, 3-D printer to help construct houses out of clay for the community’s residents.

While Mott and her team did not finish the project, the printer was nearly assembled and remaining tasks planned out when they left — an accomplishment in itself, Mott said.

Problem-solving and adapting to a different culture were some of the learning experiences Mott credits the ETHOS program for teaching her.

“ETHOS combines everything I’m really passionate about, which is engineering, service, adventure, traveling, culture; so it’s a great program,” Mott said.

Immersed in a completely new culture, Mott said she was forced to reflect on her own beliefs in a way she hadn’t before, and answer questions such as “What does it mean to be female?” and “What does it mean to be American?”

“I questioned a lot of things,” Mott said. “Why do I believe what I believe? You learn, don’t just blindly follow things.”

The most rewarding part for Mott? She said, oddly enough, it was leaving. Saying goodbye to all of her new friends was “really hard and really sad” according to Mott, but made her realize how much she gained during her experience.

“I built a life here and really strong relationships here. Those things made it so hard to leave,” Mott said.

2 Responses to Building clay houses and friendships

  1. Joe Wade says:

    ETHOS is quite an interesting project. The Exchange Club of Dayton would love to hear about it at one of our regular/special meetings. We are always looking for members too. Check us out on the Web of Facebook.

  2. Richard A.O'Neill says:

    I have devoted much study to the traditions of India. Richard O’Neill, UD ’66X

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