Empowering Female Leaders and Reducing Pollution

The IDDS team at UVG-Altiplano

Mayarí Perez Tay has always been curious about the way machines work. Growing up, she dreamed of transforming society through the engineering design process. Excited to pursue her goal, in 2012 she enrolled at UVG, which she choose because it emulates US ideas and values and is a champion of creative spaces for innovation in science and technology.

Double majoring in mechanical and industrial engineering, in 2016 she was invited to visit Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to present UVG’s Makerspaces project at the International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces (ISAM). She was the only undergraduate to present alongside PhD candidates and professors. In 2017 Mayarí was awarded a fellowship by Engineering for Change (of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering) and again presented at ISAM, this time at Case Western Reserve University.

Mayarí working on the project presented at MIT

Mayarí was also invited to participate in the 2017 International Development Design Summit (IDDS), which was hosted at the UVG-Altiplano campus. Eight teams collaborated on developing sustainable interventions that focused on improving cook stoves, energy sources, food production, water, sanitation and waste management in the homes of the surrounding Highlands communities. 

Mayarí worked with indigenous leaders to create an alternative heating system for the “temezcal,” a sauna-like structure used for bathing. Heated with open flame, traditional “temezcales” produce smoke that can irritate the lungs and eyes. Using rocket-stove technology, the prototype Mayarí developed with her team heats up quicker, uses less firewood, and emits close to zero smoke, eliminating household hazards and pollution.

Her favorite part of the experience was teaching female leaders and community members how to use simple tools like saws and hammers — tools that they were initially afraid to touch. With these tools, prototypes were created that would greatly reduce the pollutants affecting homes in the Highlands communities.

As women become proficient in traditionally male-dominated areas of study, they come to recognize their rights, determine their life outcomes and take agency over decision-making. With a UVG education, Mayarí is fulfilling her dream to positively impact her community and the Guatemalan society at large through the empowerment of other women and by becoming the innovator she has always has sought to be.

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