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A group of engineering students recently put their education to the test when they built a footbridge in a small community in Bolivia this May.

The build was led by the Bridges to Prosperity chapter at the University of Alberta, an organization that constructs bridges in developing nations for rural communities. Mabel Smith, a fourth-year civil engineering student, co-founded the chapter three years ago.

Last year, two students also went to Bolivia to help the University of Toronto’s chapter with their bridge. This latest bridge was the University of Alberta group’s first project since their foundation.

Construction lasted for 26 days in the community of Chavarrias, where a river separates a large portion of the community’s households and farmland from nearby schools and other facilities.

Edmonton engineering students build bridge in Bolivia

July 16, 2018

University of Alberta students spent the month of May in the South American village of Chavarria building a 39-metre cable suspension bridge through collaboration with Bridges to Prosperity, a United States-based non-profit.


The goal was to give farming families across the river from the village a way to cross during the rainy season, said U of A club president Mabel Smith.

“Mostly, the bridge is helping get kids to the school in the rainy season,” said Smith, currently in her final year of a civil engineering degree. “It also to help people access markets, health care.”

Using plans from Bridges to Prosperity, eight students completed a suspension bridge with a one-metre path fenced in by chain-link siding painted red, yellow and green — the colours of the Bolivian flag.

Students build bridges and brighter futures for Bolivian children

June 28, 2018

Children from the community of Chavarrias, Bolivia will now be able to attend school during the rainy season, thanks to a group of University of Alberta engineering students.

In May 2018, eight students built a 39-metre footbridge in the small community as part of a project through the U of A chapter of Bridges to Prosperity (B2P).

This bridge was not only the largest offered by Bridges to Prosperity, but was constructed in a record 26 days.

U of A B2P chapter co-founder Mabel Smith, a fourth-year Civil Engineering Co-op student, and former B2P chapter president Mitchell Trollip (Mechanical ’18) say that seeing the river and environment first hand really demonstrated the need for a bridge.  

U of A engineering students to build bridge for Bolivian community

February 27, 2018

Engineering students from the University of Alberta are literally bridging a gap for communities in South America.


The group will head down to Tholamarca, Bolivia, in May to build a 49-metre sag bridge to connect people from their farms to nearby markets, hospitals and schools.


People in the community have to climb down the gorge to get to the other side, which can be dangerous during flooding season.


"Many members of the community are on the wrong side of the river," student Georgia Dunn told CBC's Edmonton AM on Tuesday. "They have a lot of difficulty climbing down the gorge [and] crossing the river."

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