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Researching the potential for sustainable development and growth – 2024

Brazil - Foz do Iguaçu
Dates June 14 - August 9, 2024
Program Focus

Partnering with organizations, research sites and Itaipu Dam itself to advance the Dam’s mission of renewable energy generation and sustainable development.

Dates subject to change

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Climate Change
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Public Policy
  • Science



Information Session:

  • Wednesday, October 25, 5:00 PM – Gross Hall 100C


Join us on a transformative journey to explore the remarkable Itaipu Binational Dam, a hydroelectric power plant on the boarder of Brazil and Paraguay. With equal ownership shared between both nations, as mandated by the 1973 Itaipu Treaty, it fuels approximately 90% of Paraguay’s power needs and contributes 15% to Brazil’s electricity grid, fostering a unique energy partnership. Paraguay does not have sufficient demand to consume its 50% share, therefore it has historically exported the majority of its electricity to Brazil.

By participating in this program, students will gain an understanding of the connections between energy and social development and how one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams can shape the politics and economics of Brazil and Paraguay.

Throughout the summer, students will collaborate closely with Brazilian partners, delving into the operational intricacies of the dam and assessing its transformative impact on the well-being of local communities. Through partnerships with local educational institutions and dedicated researchers, students will actively contribute to Itaipu’s initiatives in sustainable water and energy solutions, as well as the critical mission of biodiversity conservation.

Community Partnerships

Students in Brazil will primarily be working at the Itaipu Dam and at the Parque Tecnológico de Itaipu (PTI), a teaching and research center located in the barracks that used to house workers during the construction of the Dam.  The PTI now houses a university campus, the Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Paraná (UNIOESTE) engineering and science center. DukeEngage students will partner with faculty and students at PTI/UNIOESTE to understand financing, engineering, and the economic and social impacts of the Itaipu Dam on Brazil.

  • Students will have strong engagement with UNIOESTE students who will facilitate communications with locals, help understand the culture and current economic situation.
  • Students will also engage with people from the Itaipu Binacional Dam staff who will be supervising their internship projects on wide range of topics Dam operations, environmental related programs, and social responsibilities to understand the importance of the Dam to local communities.
  • Students will also engage with students from Instituto Federal do Paraná (IFPR) for some structured cross-cultural experiences.

Program Requirements

Language: Portuguese or Spanish would be beneficial, but is not required.

Coursework: No specific coursework is required. However, applications will be stronger from students with a background or training in energy, environmental sciences, justice, Latin American history or economics.

Skills: The most important skill is a willingness to learn. Our student teams are at their best when students bring in a diverse set of skills: language, engineering, statistical modeling, quantitative and qualitative research experience, web design, social media messaging, graphic design.

Personal Qualities: Students should be able to work on projects with autonomy. Must be open to working closely with other students and community partners.



Housing, meals, and transportation: Students will live in Foz do Iguaçu, the Brazilian city next to Itaipu Dam. Students will live in community housing (probably a rented home for all Duke students) in the city, with easy, walkable access to grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes as well as to public transportation. The primary mode of transportation will be Uber and the Itaipu bus for pick-up and drop-off from the internship. Students are expected to cook their own breakfast and dinner. Lunch will be available for purchase at the internship site.

Local safety, security, and cultural norms: We encourage students who have questions or concerns about health or safety in international programs to check Duke’s International SOS (ISOS) portal for relevant information. If you have special needs related to health, culture, disability, or religious practices, please contact the program director(s) or the DukeEngage office to discuss whether your needs can be accommodated in this program.

For guidance on how race, religion, sexual/gender identity, ability, or other aspects of identity might impact your travels, we suggest exploring the Diversity, Identity and Global Travel section of the DukeEngage website.


Academic Connections

This program is open to all, and might especially appeal to students taking courses in public policy, international relations, Latin American studies, innovation & entrepreneurship, energy & environment, and climate change. Students who participate in this program might go on to pursue thesis or other independent research under the supervision of the program director. This program is of great relevance for students pursuing the Energy & Environment certificate.


Potential Program Cancellations

DukeEngage cannot guarantee that any program will occur. Programs may be cancelled for various reasons, including COVID considerations.