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Dayton Engineer

Christian Fowlkes with other students holding a water tank above their heads.

Senior Mechanical Engineering Student Returns to Guatemala as Student Leader for Ethos Center International Breakout

By Keelin Kelly

The Ethos Center, a signature program in the School of Engineering, offers a variety of opportunities for students to use their engineering skills to help others within underserved communities. 

The center offers breakouts that range from a weekend to 10 days and semester-long and summer immersions that last up to 10 weeks. Students can choose to work with established partners in Dayton, the U.S. or one of eight countries.

Senior mechanical engineering student Christian Fowlkes chose to get involved with the Ethos Center after attending an informational event for the program his junior year. He traveled to Alotenango, Guatemala in March 2023 to complete his first international breakout.

“My favorite part of the trip was meeting new people,” Fowlkes said. “We had civil, electrical, computer and industrial technology engineers that ranged from freshman to senior year, so there was a very broad range of knowledge and skill sets.”

His experience was life-changing, and he knew he wanted to go back and help to continue the project they started. Fowlkes returned to Guatemala with the Ethos Center as a student leader for the international breakout in Antigua over the 2024 Easter break.

“Our host said that the community had made a lot of progress since we left, so I was most excited to see that progress and finish the work we started last year,” he said.

During the breakout, the group worked with agricultural company AgroTerra, which aims to provide organic produce for people in need within the community. Students learned how to create and sustain an aquaponics system that can be powered using solar panels. They installed an aquaponic system at a local school and fertilized their soil to aid their agricultural efforts.

“We didn’t always speak the same language as the people we were working with, but we all had a common goal, so we found different ways to communicate in order to understand what needed to be done,” Fowlkes said. 

Now in the final stretch of his education, the senior engineering student accepted a post-graduation job with Ford working in product development for electrified systems and HV batteries for hybrid vehicles. He credits the Ethos Center with helping him differentiate himself in the application process.

“The process of finding a first job was a little difficult because all companies value experience, and you need some type of experience that will set you apart,” Fowlkes said. “The Ethos Center was a great way to get that different experience.”

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