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From Valley to Haiti

Published Dec. 05, 2018

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What started as research is ending with change. Valley Regional High School (VRHS) senior Daniel Hearn, 17, has come up with a Capstone Project that has the potential to change the lives of countless Haitians he has never met. He’s building a portable water filtration system that will create clean, accessible, potable water for Haitians in Dechappelles and patients at the Hôpital Albert Sweitzer.

Hearn wanted to do an independent study focused on engineering, so he took the initiative and at the beginning of his junior year of high school he began to research some Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) projects and came across a water purification system on which he could work himself. He started a gofundme page to raise funds and contacted the Sister Cities of Essex and Haiti program, but that was just the beginning.

His first round of fundraising was successful in raising $400. He knew he needed more, so he spent the summer between junior and senior year working on his project, as well as a PowerPoint presentation, that he presented to Whelen Engineering in Chester. His intent was to raise further funding. It worked and President and CEO of Whelen Engineering, George Whelen, agreed to donate $5,000 to Hearn’s project.

Hearn is now finishing up his filtration systems, which he and his father will deliver to Dechapelles this spring or summer. VRHS technology teacher Robert Sanchez, who has acted as Hearn’s mentor, will also be part of the trip,

“I have always been interested in math and science and love figuring out solutions to problems,” said Hearn. “It’s kind of amazing to me that my water filtration system has the potential to change the lives of so many people I have never met before.”

Hearn gives a great deal of credit to VRHS and his teachers who have supported his efforts in this pursuit. He also said that he is extremely grateful to Whelen Engineering for believing in him and his project.

“Dan is an amazing student and his project is exactly what we want our student’s Capstone Projects to be,” said VRHS Principal Michael Barile.

Capstone Projects are two-semester projects through which students pursue independent research on a question or problem of their choice and, with the guidance of a faculty mentor, produce a substantial paper that reflects a deep understanding of the topic.

“We want our students to identify a problem and solve it by helping people,” added Barile. “This is exactly what Dan’s project does. This is a multicultural connection, involving both our own community and a community in another country in need. I think this project is both exciting and impressive and we are all very proud of Dan and his accomplishments. He is a great student who we know will keep in touch with us in the future.”

“Dan’s project really speaks to critical and creative problem solving, which is our strategic plan,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Levy said. “This project exemplifies the excellence of our students and it incorporates every aspect of what we are looking for in Capstone Projects.”

She added, “Dan is going to go so far and do so many wonderful things. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the future.”

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