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Service Abroad: ND SEED

AUTHOR: ND Staff

PUBLISHED: March 26, 2012

Six students in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences seeking to make a difference in the world combined their academic interests with their desire to serve their fellow man. They formed Notre Dame Students Empowering through Engineering Development (ND SEED), a registered and approved 501(c)3 corporation.

The students solicited sponsors and teamed with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a not-for-profit organization that fuels positive change by helping impoverished rural communities around the world construct reliable footbridges, which provide access to schools, clinics, jobs, and markets. After identifying a Honduran community that needed help (the village of Pena Blanca), the team began additional fund raising and explored design options.

ND SEED group photographPena Blanca was chosen because the existing bridge was very old and, as the students put it, very scary. The supporting cable, which was tied to a tree on one bank, was barbed wire. One bank was also much steeper than the other. This meant that the team needed to build more massive piers than originally thought to ensure structural integrity and safety. They designed and constructed the bridge alongside Pena Blanca residents.

The ND SEED TEAM focused on building a suspended footbridge in Palquí, Guatemala. Because of the topography of the area, the streams and tributaries flowing through the area can flood quickly and without warning. Another factor was that the village is divided into two parts, most of the children have to cross the river to get to school. The existing bridge was a rickety plank at the bottom of a steep gully. When the river is impassable, students have to walk an hour out of the way to attend school. Typically, attendance drops by half during the rainy season.

Working again with B2P, the Notre Dame students conducted a site survey and designed the bridge. They built the bridge (the anchors, cable placement, approaches, and decking).

For more information about ND SEED, visit http://www.nd.edu/~ndseed