Carol Lu (EPICS Global – Vietnam Study Abroad): Can a team of mere students truly design a worthwhile tool that helps sustain small-scale farmers across the globe while serving their community and environment? Certainly by just working in a classroom space off of internet information — however well-stocked either source might be — the answer will be “no.” But with the direct human connection to stakeholders and collaborators, our united hopes can be answered with “yes.” As part of Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), I had the opportunity to travel with the Vietnam Shrimp Farming team to Da Nang, Vietnam as part of a Global Intensive Experience (GIE) in the first two weeks of August 2022. We brought with us only the concept of an IoT device for water quality monitoring, a set of tangled Arduinos and probes, and research statistics on shrimp health and the tumultuous economic turns intensive farms often undergo. Yet stepping into the streets of Vietnam where motorbikes streamed around each other and us like water, and into a different culture that surrounded us just as fully as the humidity and the perfumed smoke of incense in Buddhist temples and paper offerings burnt to ancestors on the street corners, I found my own theories swept into a whirlwind of questions and doubts. Human connection was our anchor. We biked the long, narrow paths of a farming and a fishing village divided into rectangles of fields and ponds, finding three shrimp farmers who welcomed us into their space. Through the translation efforts of our patient tour guides, we interviewed these farmers on their shrimp farming techniques, greatest challenges and fears, use of technology, and much more. Their answers helped us reframe the goals and criteria of our design — how could we have known that they had such a fear of sudden weather changes because it killed the shrimp? Yet how perfectly it fit, like a puzzle piece, into our understanding of why water quality was important! And hearing their pride in their work, yet the risks they balance daily, greatly touched my heart. Likewise, the coffee served by the shrimp farmer’s wife and talking with her while drawing water out of the pond stirred my fond affections. We also had the privilege of collaborating with VNUK, also known as the University of Danang, and working in their Makerspace to synthesize our newly-gained perspectives and water quality information with past research into a design review. Our slides were an organized deluge of graphs, schematics, pictures, key points, and most importantly, the mission for the Shrimp Farming team going forward: To help shrimp farmers maintain sustainable and healthy yields, land, and markets by increasing the accessibility of critical water quality data. And how wonderful the payoff was, when finally, before the group of professors from VNUK, we delivered an inspiring yet scientifically-grounded pitch of our project — receiving in return a dozen questions on everything from biofloc to budgets that further refined our focus tested the depth and width of our project’s ability to handle multifaceted perspectives. But work was still just a sliver of the GIE experience. The culture and friendship of Vietnam also immersed me: from the flavor of the Morning Glory plant to the sight of pagodas nestled in the Marble Mountains to the sizzling sound of egg and shrimp pancakes made with rice flour we had ground by hand, what could I exclaim? Oh, how rich the history and variety of every aspect of life we experienced! Common food to sacred ground, the bustle of haggling in Han Market to the peace of watching a thousand lights reflected in the water as we slowly cruised by the Dragon bridge. Perhaps the night that stood out to me the most was simply exploring the history of Hoi An with our student tour guides from VNUK. I saw the flooding water levels labeled in the historical home of royalty and stood amazed at how at least once a decade the water would be taller than my shoulders, then we crowded into a tiny cafe that somehow served a person every 10 seconds with honeyed ice tea and a fresh tulip. With each conversation and new experience, the more I connected with my Vietnamese friends, even exchanging jokes in Chinese words (since we all knew a bit) and discussing interesting cultural discrepancies from Asia to America. But in the end, what can I say? Indeed, though Vietnam is almost perfectly the opposite side of the globe from Arizona, and our languages and cultures similarly poles apart, yet we are still connected by the same ocean’s waters and build towards the same engineering goals.