Building Bridges

Students Endure Remote Project Site To Deliver Much-Needed Crossing

 
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PHOTOS COURTESY OF PSU ENGINEERING

The pedestrian bridge in Machacamarca, Bolivia. Above, the team that built it.

When a student project team from Pennsylvania State University set out to build a pedestrian bridge in Machacamarca, Bolivia, it quickly realized that engineering is but one part of a successful bridge project—execution is another.

The team had six months to plan the footbridge, which now connects a town—previously cut off by a river during the rainy season—to nearby schools, markets and hospitals. And the irregular landscape posed an engineering puzzle, which the project team solved by adapting certain parts of the structure until safety requirements were met.

But the one-month execution proved just as daunting: The remote project meant team members had to hike one hour each morning to reach the site, and the lofty altitude (12,000 feet or 3,657 meters above sea level) meant exhaustion set in sooner. Trucks were unable to reach the project site, so students had to transport all construction materials by hand.

“There are days when the cold, exhaustion and craving for a nice pizza can start to feel overwhelming,” project manager Stefany Baron told Penn State News, “but this can all be overcome by reminding each other that, at the end of the day, this is still an amazing experience where we are making a real impact on the lives of some pretty incredible people.”

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