The Michigan Engineer News Center

Bridges to Prosperity in Bolivia

For the second year in a row, the Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) U-M Student Chapter traveled to Bolivia over the summer to construct a bridge for a rural village.| Short Read
EnlargeBridges to Prosperity (B2P) U-M Student Chapter
IMAGE:  Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) U-M Student Chapter

Thanks to these students, another community now has year-round access to essential resources. The bridge spans across a river embankment and is constructed from recycled steel cable and locally available materials.

Several CEE students participated in this trip, including Erica Mertz, Joe Riley, Emily Saban, Dan Tamarkin and Brad Murphy. Saban and Riley also participated in last year’s trip.

Riley acted as the travel manager and translator for the group. He says that he and Saban prepared the others for the trip by describing their experiences from 2013.

“Emily and I talked about our experience in the community, from how much we were expected to work to what kind of food we would be eating. I wanted to ensure that anyone that decided to travel knew that we were going to be living in rural Bolivia with little to no access to the outside world and we would be working eight-hour days of manual labor,” Riley said.

In addition to preparing for the conditions, Riley and Saban were also able to apply last year’s engineering lessons to this year’s project.

“Last year taught us that no initial design is set in stone and that there will always be alterations, and that as a team we would have to work together to find a feasible solution. We also picked up the mentality of ‘work smart, not hard.’”

One of the surprising things about the village was the age of those who helped with the project.

“It was an aging community with few children and an average age of probably 60. Despite their advanced age the men and women who worked with us were some of the hardest working individuals I’ve ever met.”

The trip costs about $20K total and the chapter works throughout the year to raise enough money for the bridge and travel expenses. Riley says these efforts are worth it and those interested in getting involved should do so.

“This is a once (or twice) in a lifetime experience. Everyone on this trip and last year’s trip had an amazing time. If we weren’t graduating I’m sure we’d all go again.”

To learn more about B2P at U-M, please click here.

To see photos from the trip, please visit the CEE Facebook page.

Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) U-M Student Chapter
Jessica Petras


Jessica Petras
Marketing Communications Specialist

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

(734) 764-9876

GG Brown 2105E

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