CIDEM – Involving students in research

CIDEM is a dynamic research institute at the University of Las Villas in Santa Clara, Cuba. Most of the students in the tenth semester of either Architecture or Civil Engineering choose to focus their final research project on themes related to “ecomaterials” or on the broader themes of sustainable housing, potentials and costs in construction. Guided by a competent and engaged team of professors they have been delving into various themes concerning alternative cement, solid fuel bricks, MCR, and adobe.

 

A major thrust of research at the moment embraces the theme of biomass - its sources, production and uses. It takes the students into the realm of solid fuel bricks, a “green” alternative to firewood in several applications, such as firing bricks or burning lime. The students combine both laboratory and field work to accomplish their goals; in most cases the work resolves real practical problems.

Another thrust is around ecomaterials for house construction, their use and their costs, which takes students into global analysis of the construction scene. The students’ interest goes beyond the mere scientific analysis of the materials involved, but also includes their practical implications, such as economic feasibility, scaling up and dissemination. The documents produced become an important source of information for technicians and practitioners working in the field of sustainable housing.

Yosvany Díaz took his degree in Civil Engineering with his project on improving technologies to produce fired clay bricks. He focused on the energy aspects by both reducing the burning time and using an alternative source of fuel: solid fuel bricks. In order to accomplish his goals he had to work at a brick kiln in Manicaragua; there he learnt from skilled workers the know-how of brick making. This knowledge helped him to come up with an outstanding result. Because of his good performance, Yosvany was chosen to join CIDEM’s team as a full staff member.

There are also students from other latitudes who have worked with ecomaterials. Salvador Mba Esimi Mangue, from Equatorial Guinea, is one of the various foreign students that finished their studies in Cuba this year. As part of his final research project he studied economic and organizational aspects of the manufacture of pre-cast concrete beams, used as support for MCR roofing. In his presentation, he explained the features of the SiPret system developed at CIDEM, and the possibilities of its use. The knowledge created will benefit not only projects at CIDEM, but also others around the world.

The team of professors behind this endeavour is quite happy with the outcome. Dr. Prof. Fernando Martirena -currently involved in a post-doctoral Humbolt fellowship affiliated with the University of Kassel in Germany- and Dr. Prof. Sergio Betancourt, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at the Faculty of Constructions, lead the team. Prof. Pedro Seijo, Eng. Ivan Machado and Eng. Juan Dopico also play important roles, as they directly supervise the work done by the students, as well as provide feed back from their results in the practical projects underway at CIDEM.

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