The students participated in the construction of the 39-meter cable suspension bridge through collaboration with Bridges to Prosperity, a United States-based non-profit organization. The operation took place in May 2018 and was completed in a record 26 days. University of Alberta club president Mabel Smith, currently in her final year of a civil engineering degree, stated that the aim was to provide the people a safe way to cross the river during the rainy seasons. “The school was on one side of the river and the farmland on the other. Mostly, the bridge is helping get kids to the school in the rainy season. It also provides people access to markets and health care. The river gets so high and fast during rainy season it is nearly impossible for a grown adult to cross safely on foot, let alone a child. So children just miss school because they physically can’t get there” she said. "Many members of the community are on the wrong side of the river," student Georgia Dunn adds. "They have a lot of difficulty climbing down the gorge and crossing the river."
With the design guidance from Bridges to Prosperity, 8 students completed the suspension bridge, with a one-meter path fenced in by chain-link siding painted in the colors of the Bolivian flag (red, yellow and green). They worked out the calculations and created drawings of the bridge using AutoCAD software. Along with their engineering knowledge, students had access to other resources to ensure a successful bridge build. Moreover, around 10 local community members worked on the project every day. Anywise, the policy of the Bridges to Prosperity organization requires the commitment of locals “to have knowledge and ownership of it so it’s not just something given to them from the West,” according to Mabel Smith. Students and locals were taught to mix materials in order to produce concrete by local masons.
According to Mabel Smith ”The entire process is great for giving the students a global consciousness. No matter what your role is in the engineering world, there are always choices to make. Having global exposure will help engineers make decisions with the locals in mind.”
Next year, the club will have a new supporting organization, Engineers in Action.