Four years, $80,000 of fundraising and innumerable obstacles later, a team of engineering students have completed a mobile dental clinic, destined to bolster dental care missions to developing nations.
The team, Engineering Smiles, got their start in 2013 in the Engineering Projects in Community Service program. EPICS pairs multidisciplinary student teams with a nonprofit, community or governmental agency to solve an engineering problem and develop professional skills. Engineering Smiles partnered with IMAHelps, a California-based nonprofit that organizes missions to Central and South America to provide medical and dental care to underprivileged populations.
“Getting this finished is just about the best graduation present I could ask for,” says Sara Mantlik, team lead, of the completed clinic.
While the majority of the original Engineering Smiles team either graduated or moved onto other projects, Mantlik and fellow mechanical engineering graduate student Nick Kemme have stuck with the project since its inception. They’re both slated to graduate with their master’s in mechanical engineering this spring.
“We were concerned we weren’t going to be able to finish our fundraising goal, but things really came together in the last month and a half,” said Kemme.
The completed clinic is housed in a trailer measuring 24 feet long and eight feet wide, and comes equipped with two dental operatories, and a sterilization area for handpieces. Catalina Laboratory Products, a Tucson-based company, donated thousands of dollars worth of materials and services, including the clinic’s cabinetry, flooring and upgraded furnishings.
“They donated their time, materials and manpower. We went down to Tucson, picked out what we wanted for the trailer and laid it out how we wanted it,” says Kemme. “It was such a huge help.”