Lipscomb engineering missions team installs 104-foot-long bridge in San Esteban, Honduras

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The bridge is complete!

Throughout the course of this past year, students, faculty and staff from Lipscomb’s Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering in conjunction with Lipscomb's Peugeot Center for Engineering Service to Developing Communities, Honduras Outreach Inc. and HDR/ICA, have been working to design, build and install a pedestrian bridge in San Esteban, Honduras.

A part of Lipscomb's engineering missions program, a sub-division of Lipscomb’s student missions office, the San Esteban bridge project gave engineers on Lipscomb’s campus the opportunity to help middle and elementary students more than 1,500 miles away. 

This past spring, a big green bridge tagged Lipscomb’s “bridge to nowhere” caused a lot of attention on the north quad, in front of the James D. Hughes Center and alongside SanEstebanLipscombBelmont Boulevard. On March 28, 16 engineering students began a trial-run of the bridge that would eventually become a 104-foot-long metal pedestrian bridge connecting two schools separated by a very busy highway that elementary and middle school students cross daily.

Lipscomb also sent their first of two mission's teams to San Esteban in March to prep the site and pour the foundation for the bridge. During that time, Juan Orlando Hernandez, the president of Honduras, visited the work site and expressed his excitement and gratitude for the project. He thanked the Lipscomb team for its hard work and investment in his country and the lives of its youth.

Once the trial run was completed, and with the help of Healing Hands International, a nonprofit organization in Nashville, the bridge components were shipped to Honduras throughout the month of July.

The second mission’s team made its way to San Esteban from Aug. 8-15 to complete the project by installing the 104-foot-long metal pedestrian bridge in its permanent location in Honduras.

Lipscomb engineering students and faculty assembled the metal bridge on the side of the highway, complete with decking, protective fencing and safety handrails. They also assembled a tower and stairs that were lifted in place by on-site crane operators to ensure that the bridge had enough clearance over the highway for trucks to pass underneath.

Ryan Gadsey, a recent graduate of the civil engineering program, was a key player in this project working as one of the 16 students who participated in the trail-run building day in March, and was also one of the 10 students who traveled to San Esteban to assemble the bridge into its permanent location. Gadsey explained how these types of opportunities are exactly why he decided to be an engineer in the first place.SanEstebanGroup

“The project as a whole was rewarding,” Gadsey said. “And for it to be a mission trip and to be able to take a student's future profession and incorporate it into his/her faith serving others, is amazing in itself. Knowing that I was a part of something much bigger than me helps me in my journey of faith and being surrounded by a team who worked hard all week sets fire to a passion that I feel God calls us to.” 

Although Gadsey and the team loved the feeling of accomplishment they received, he explained that nothing compared to the joy of watching the kids cross the bridge for the very first time.

Once the project was completed, Honduran students eagerly walked the bridge while local families expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the team for increasing their children’s safety as they pursue their education. 

Kerry Patterson, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Lipscomb, explained that the bridge had been a dream for the community in San Esteban, Honduras, and in the hearts of the HOI ministry in Honduras, who partnered with Lipscomb to help make this dream a reality.

“When this project came to our attention, we immediately saw it as a wonderful opportunity to serve a critical need and at the same time, provide an opportunity for our students to grow both in their skills as engineers and as participants in the Kingdom,” said Patterson.

Patterson also explained that although the project faced some challenges during the construction process, the students gained insight on how to solve problems with limited resources in remote locations and helped get a clear vision of what could be done with the education they are receiving, and use that to further the Kingdom of God.

“We are blessed in the college of engineering to be a part of a university that takes bringing a life of mission into focus for our students seriously,” Patterson explained. “We are also blessed by the many contributors of this project, including the vendors and fabricators, those who provided for the funding of the bridge, many engineers from the Nashville community including two Lipscomb engineering alums who led the project, the students who actually worked in Honduras and those who worked hard here on campus, the staff of HOI and many others who simply encouraged us, without which SanEstebanHorsethe project would not have been successful.” 

Mark Jent, director of missions outreach, explained that Lipscomb engineering missions is an extremely important branch of Lipscomb missions in the way that they are able to use their valuable skills and education to bless communities across the world.

“Over the past 12 years engineering has pioneered the way at Lipscomb University when it comes to integrating discipline-specific missions with what is being taught in the classroom,” said Jent. “Missions has become ingrained into the fiber of the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering and because of its great success, the Peugeot Center was born out of a desire to take their students deeper in serving the needs of our global host partners.

“These mission-minded engineers have not only made a significant impact in locations where they have served, but by making it a priority in their curriculum, they have transformed their students into disciples who can tangibly see how to take one's skill set and see it in the light of a spiritual gift that can bless others.”

Check out videos of the construction process and children walking the bridge below!