Hannah Gillespie seeks to increase access to clean water in Léogâne, Haiti. Her team is composed of students in mechanical, civil, and environmental engineering, professors Alexandros Taflanidis and Tracy Kijewski-Correa, and community leaders in Léogâne. These community leaders direct a series of “innovation clubs” in Léogâne through Engineering2Empower, an organization originally created by professors Taflanidis and Kijewski-Correa following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to increase community resiliency to natural disasters. Through a human-centered design thinking approach, Gillespie works to understand, ideate, and implement solutions to the water crisis in Léogâne. In order to comprehend current household water practices, she utilizes surveys, observational studies, and focus groups to talk with community members and categorize common trends. The team has identified several critical opportunities for improvement: a lack of ability to properly diagnose water sources, improper or unpopular treatment methods due to lack of alternatives, and practical difficulties of waiting in lines or traveling long distances to get to a safe source. The team is now beginning the ideation phase of the project. Gillespie will coordinate brainstorming sessions and begin prototyping solutions with students on campus along with community members in Léogâne. In human-centered design thinking, a true solution must be economically sustainable and maintained by the community independent of the team’s contributions following an initial launching period.
Gillespie has received numerous grants to pursue research around the world. Following her freshman year, she studied engineering abroad in Dublin, Ireland and then received a fellowship from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies to conduct soft robotics research at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom. Starting her sophomore year, Gillespie explored the world of transportation, conducting research abroad on the high-speed train system in Spain and interning for two summers with The Boeing Company in Charleston, SC and Seattle, WA. Concurrently, Gillespie was invited to travel to Léogâne, Haiti over winter break to assist Professors Taflanidis and Kijewski-Correa to assess the driving decision factors for homeowners in reconnaissance situations in a research project funded by the National Science Foundation. Gillespie assisted with the code and logic development of a 60+ question survey as well as its random walk protocol, resulting in over 1300 surveys being collected in both Léogâne and Les Cayes, Haiti. In her junior year, Gillespie also joined the Grand Challenges Scholars Program through the College of Engineering to unite its engineering emphasis with the Kellogg International Scholars Progam’s international development expertise. Her focus through her junior and senior years has been on the opportunities surrounding water in Haiti.