Rio Motagua Bridge Improves Access and Quality of Life for Indigenous Mayan Community in Guatemala
What began as an endeavor to improve the day-to-day life of a rural community in Guatemala resulted in national acknowledgment for the Milwaukee chapters of Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) and their completed Rio Motagua Bridge project.
The bridge in La Garrucha, Guatemala, has been nominated for the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award (OCEA) by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The Marquette University Civil Engineering Senior Design project has been nominated as one of only six finalists for this prestigious national award.
Designed and constructed by Marquette University under the mentorship of the EWB-USA Wisconsin Professional Partners, the 67-foot bridge is improving accessibility for more than 100,000 people to community resources, including bus routes to schools, medical facilities and markets. Previously, only a pedestrian bridge existed at the narrowest point of the Motagua River in La Garrucha, Guatemala. During the 6-month rainy season the river flow obstructed passage on the bridge.
“In so many ways, the success of the project was more than just the bridge,” says Mike Paddock, project mentor and Wisconsin Professional Partners President. “After the bridge project, the community of La Garrucha got together and decided to work on some additional communal projects. Not only did the local community realize what they can do when they work together, but the students traveling for the project did as well, and that is priceless.”
The project will be presented at the Engineers Without Borders-USA 2009 International Conference in Milwaukee, March 26-29. Mike Shawcross from the community of La Garrucha, Guatemala, will share his firsthand account on the impact this project has had on his community. Also present at the conference to discuss the success of the project are project mentors, chapter members and local project donors.
Dr. Dan Zitomer, associate professor of engineering at Marquette, said the project provided a real-life experience in how engineers can make a difference and improve the lives of others. He, Paddock and the Wisconsin and Marquette chapters of Engineers Without Borders-USA have continued their connection to La Garrucha, with a subsequent project to bring a potable water system to the village.
"I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m able to use my engineering experience to help people who really need and sincerely appreciate the help,” says Kevin Hagen, project mentor and Vice President of GRAEF, an engineering/design firm. "It is so rewarding when you can work together with and learn from the community and students while making a difference."
Established in 1960, the OCEA honors the project that best illustrates superior civil engineering skills and represents a significant contribution to civil engineering progress and society. This is the first student design project from a university to receive this national nomination and the first time a non-profit organization has been nominated. The OCEA winner will be announced during a gala on April 23 in Arlington, Va.
About Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA)
Engineers Without Borders-USA is a nonprofit humanitarian organization established to partner with remote, developing communities in more than 45 countries to improve the quality of life through the implementation of sustainable engineering programs while developing globally aware and internationally responsible professionals and students. For more information about EWB-USA please visit www.ewb-usa.org.
About Marquette University College of Engineering
The Marquette University College of Engineering, celebrating its centennial year, is preparing a new generation of competitive engineers. With majors offered in biomedical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, construction engineering and management, computer engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, Marquette’s nearly 1,100 undergraduate students take advantage of Milwaukee’s urban environment for internships and cooperative education placements. The college’s outreach programs include a variety of programs for K-12 students and service learning programs such as the Guatemala bridge-building.
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