STEMM Idol Speaker Charlie Weikert

The idea behind the University of Dayton ETHOS program needs no explanation—its name, an acronym standing for Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service-Learning, mostly speaks for itself. But Charlie Weikert, a UD junior, explained to CJ students Tuesday, October 11 that his ETHOS experience was truly “life-changing.”

During homeroom periods, Weikert detailed his summer service-learning trip to La Paz, Bolivia. There, in the poorest country in South America, the mechanical engineering student spent 10 weeks living with a host family and working onsite with natives to design and build wood dryers—25-foot steel structures used for drying up to two tons of wood at the point of lumber collection in the forest.

It was challenging enough, Weikert told students, to engineer such structures in nature, where things like electricity, protected facilities, and automated tools—items often taken for granted—were scarce, if available at all. However, a monumental hurdle to overcome was the communication barrier between himself and his two assistants, who spoke no English.

“They must have thought I was crazy,” Weikert told students as he demonstrated some of the charade-type techniques he and his fellow workers used to communicate with each other.

Despite the difficulties of working in a foreign land, Weikert said he enjoyed assimilating with South American culture during his brief stay. His cultural experiences ranged from exciting stints fishing for piranha and catching anacondas in the Amazon River to frustrating travel delays caused by political demonstrations.

In summary, Weikert explained to students the appreciation he gained for the cultural differences that can separate people in third world countries from others who enjoy the privileges of a developed nation.

Charlie Weikert is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Dayton. While attending Columbus East High School in Columbus, Ind., Charlie designed, patented and successfully marketed a new style of yo-yo, the popular children’s toy, after taking pre-engineering courses offered through his school’s Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program.

Between his sophomore and junior year of college in the summer of 2011, the UD ETHOS student spent 10 weeks in La Paz, Bolivia working as an intern with Prolena-Engineering Research to build industrial wood dryers in an effort to help stimulate rural economic growth.

In addition, Charlie has also served as a guest speaker at the 2010 PLTW National Innovation Summit and was given the Maverick Awards Young Entrepreneur Award by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.