U of T Students are connecting communities around the world, one bridge at a time

In June 2018, the University of Toronto Engineers in Action team (formerly Bridges to Prosperity) constructed a 64-metre suspended footbridge over the Gonchu Mayu river in Bolivia, their third bridge project since 2016.

The project began in January 2018 when Engineers in Action was asked to design and build a bridge for Tablas Monte, a village of 140 families located on the tropical slopes of the Andes. Community members had difficulty crossing the nearby river of Gonchu Mayu to reach agricultural lands. The unsafe access has resulted in three fatalities over just three years.

To complete the bridge, the team’s most ambitious and difficult project to date, students faced a long 40-minute commute to the site, requiring them to wake before sunrise and work until after sunset each day. Other challenges include a river profile, which varied greatly from the survey that they originally received; and the necessity to use a deadman anchor in dynamited rock. Despite these challenges, the team completed a bridge of great quality as scheduled, working alongside a local engineer and masons.

The team of six University of Toronto students and three Western university tag-along students completed design, construction, and community engagement plans for the project with the assistance of the parent organization’s technical advisory board. Additionally, engineers from Arup acted as technical supervisors and provided assistance throughout construction.

The teams were fortunate enough to spend the six weeks together with the community of Tables Monte, bonding over and building on the international network of engineers working to solve global infrastructure problems.

“We arrived at the community with a warm-hearted welcome, and an invitation to stay in their old schoolhouse,” said one student organizer.

While in Bolivia, the University of Toronto Chapter worked with teams from Duke University and University College London (UCL), who were constructing a bridge located 15 minutes away from the Gonchu Mayu site.

The bridge was inaugurated with speeches, the traditional breaking of chicha (corn liquor vases), and a night of Bolivian music and dance. The community’s celebration included participation from the governing municipality of Colomi, a locality in Bolivia.

The achievements in Tablas Monte showcase the University of Toronto Chapter’s resilience. Though the club is transitioning from working with Bridges to Prosperity to working with Engineers in Action, the missions and values will remain the same.

The University of Toronto Engineers in Action Chapter is a student organization working to raise awareness for global development and provide students with opportunities to become responsible,

professional engineers through bridge projects. They have previously completed bridge projects in Patzula, Guatemala and Chillcani, Bolivia.

The University of Toronto Chapter will be continuing their mission this year. The students will be working with Western University to build their fifth bridge in Lipez, Bolivia, between May and June 2019. The bridge will be located near a community of 1,000 people, and will help some of the locals reach their farmlands during the rainy summer season. If you would like to be part of our initiative, feel free to contact them at eia.uoft@gmail.com. We are also accepting donations to fund their impactful project through the University of Toronto donation page. Go to https://donate.utoronto.ca/give/show/5, and enter “Engineers in Action – University of Toronto Chapter” in the “Additional Information” box before you check out, and you will receive a tax receipt for your kindness.