Santa Clara University

The Johnson Scholars Program

Erik McAdams '14

Hometown: Lake Oswego, Ore.
Major/Minor: civil engineering/Spanish
Mentor: Tonya Nilsson, lecturer, civil engineering
Project: Analyzing Rural Houses in Ecuador

Erik McAdams has a passion for using his skills to improve the quality of life of others. His study of civil engineering and Spanish at SCU has sparked an insatiable curiosity, which he plans to explore as a Johnson Leadership Fellow, and further develop as a Fulbright fellow after graduation. The focus of his research is to better understand a key root of poverty from an engineer's perspective, related to rural housing in Ecuador and offer potential design improvements to help rural residents with inadequate housing. A crucial component of this research will be the ability to lead in an international setting. After completing a Fulbright, Erik intends to pursue a master's degree in civil engineering and work in sustainable development.

Erik's 2013 Summer Project Update:

"The goal of my research was to analyze rural houses with respect to their structural integrity and pinpoint errors in construction and weaknesses in materials. Houses generally in rural Ecuador are self-built, which has unfortunately opened the floodgates to unstable and unsafe houses. This is especially daunting, since Ecuador lies on the ridge of two tectonic plates, making earthquakes inevitable. I spent five weeks in Ecuador, mostly exploring towns and cities within the central Sierras, but was also able to travel to the coast and Amazon. While in the Sierras, I met with the dean of civil engineering at Universidad Tecnica de Ambato. Under his guidance, and with the help of many local students, I explored surrounding villages and observed rural houses. With these visits I gained a qualitative perspective of the composition of the houses. I determined that the main problems with rural structures are generally lack of steel, poor concrete mixes, and structurally deficient roofs. I obtained samples of steel rebar, cement, and concrete, which I plan to test at Santa Clara University to determine the strengths of these different materials." 

See the article "Farther afield" in the Spring 2014 issue of Santa Clara Magazine for more on Erik's experience in Ecuador.