Students representing the University of Southern Indiana chapter of Engineers in Action (EIA) spent two weeks in June building a vehicular bridge in West Virginia as part of a project to rebuild communities across the state damaged by high water events, including severe flooding in 2016 and 2017.
Eight USI students, led by Associate Professor of Engineering Dr. Jason Hill and Lab Manager Justin Amos, travelled to rural West Virginia and assisted in the construction of a 30-foot bridge capable of supporting vehicle traffic.
“As an engineer, working hands-on with tools and equipment I had never used before was an invaluable experience,” said Diego Castillo Koussa, senior mechanical engineering major and President of the USI EIA Chapter. “When it was over, we had learned all of these new, practical skills while working for somebody who needed help, and that is what matters.”
The USI team was one of four teams participating in the larger EIA West Virginia Bridge Project, and the only team comprised of a single university. Other participating universities included Duke University, the University of Iowa, Cornell University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, Rutgers University, Georgia Tech and Cal Poly.
The previous bridge, which connected a private residence to a main road, had been structurally damaged by flooding. “With this bridge done, it means [the bridge’s owner] has more accessibility to healthcare, education for her son and his daughter, and also the ability for her family to safely visit her,” said Koussa.
Prior to arrival, students participated in fundraising, design meetings and technical reviews with EIA instructors and project leaders. Financial support for the USI Bridge Project was generously provided by Windstream. The build was done in association with West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Mennonite Disaster Service and JZ Engineering.
In 2018, USI students and faculty traveled to eSwatini in South Africa to participate in an EIA Bridge project, assisting in the build of a 90-meter foot bridge to allow villagers to safely cross a dangerous river. In 2022, the chapter hopes to take on another solo bridge project, this time in Bolivia.
Students of all majors are invited to participate in EIA and in the Bridge Project events. For more information about EIA, contact Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about USI’s accredited Engineering Department, visit USI.edu/engineering.
Photo Credit: Diego Castillo