KWWL-TV: UI Engineering Students Plan Trip to Zambia

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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For the thousands of people living on the outskirts of Livingstone, Zambia, access to city services can be difficult at times.

"During flooding season, there's really no way to cross the stream except for a bridge that's a couple miles downstream," said Michael Schaefer, a grad student at the University of Iowa.

That's why the University of Iowa's student chapter of "Engineers Without Borders" is heading to Zambia, Africa in the next few weeks. While there, they'll partner with an organization called "Bridges to Prosperity."

Schaefer and several other UI engineering students will be going there soon, to fix that. Planks of wood currently serve as a way to cross the stream, but those become useless when the water flows over its banks. Schaefer's group will build a 45-meter cable-suspension bridge to replace it.

"It provides better access to a school and a clinic."

Faculty advisor Craig Just says the visit has another purpose - to teach the people of Livingstone how construct their own bridges.

"We would come in and provide some technical expertise with the assistance of Bridges to Prosperity and our own design courses at the University of Iowa," explained Just. "If they want to build one two or three years later in a community nearby, they'll have that technical knowledge base to do that."

Schaefer is looking forward to the trip - as an opportunity to learn more about how civil engineering projects work, and a way to explore another culture.

"We're partnering with students from the University of Zambia. So, there's going to be seven Zambian civil engineering students that have been working on the design, and did the initial site assessment."

He hopes next year's underclassmen will follow in his group's footsteps, to create a sustainable bridge-building program at the University of Iowa.

"They'll hopefully be the core of the team that will do another bridge project in another area of the world."

Online Reporter - Brady Smith