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Engineering students to build trial-run bridge destined for Honduras

Janel Shoun-Smith  | 

The Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering has built four bridges in Guatemala, in addition to their latest project for a school in Honduras. Above, student engineers have erected scaffolding for a bridge project.

As part of missions program engineering students construct a pedestrian bridge in the north quad March 27-28

On Saturday, March 28, passers-by on Belmont Boulevard may notice Lipscomb’s University’s own “bridge to nowhere” being constructed in the quad in front of the James D. Hughes Center.

Sixteen students in Lipscomb’s Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering will be working that Saturday to build a 104-foot-long metal pedestrian bridge on campus, and while it may not connect to anything in America, it is destined to connect to success and safety for middle and elementary students in San Esteban, Honduras, this summer.

The on-campus construction is a trial run before sending the bridge to Honduras this summer and re-building it to allow students at an elementary and middle school to safely cross a highway bisecting their school campus. This week, during spring break, three Lipscomb students and two professors are leading the building of the foundation for the bridge in Honduras.

The engineering college will hold a thank-you ceremony and viewing of the completed bridge on Saturday, March 28, at noon. Construction of the bridge will start Friday, March 27, and will be complete by noon, March 28. The bridge construction is underwritten by HDR/ICA, an engineering and management services firm based in Nashville.

Members of the student team who are building the trial-run bridge, and will be traveling to Honduras in August to complete the construction, will be available for comments, as well as professors; Jerry Eickhoff, CEO of Honduras Outreach International, which runs the Honduran school and is a partner in the bridge project; and representatives of HDR/ICA, which has taken an active role in the design of the bridge. Two of the student team members have been mentored by an HDR/ICA engineer in designing the bridge foundation.

“Being an engineering major gives me the opportunity to actually do my work in the mission field, and that’s an opportunity not many people get,” said Daniel Jordan, a senior civil engineering major. “The most attractive part of this project is that I can use what I have learned in school to help people.”

The San Esteban bridge is the fifth bridge the engineering college has built as part of its missions program coordinated by Lipscomb’s Richard S. and Mary Ann Brown Peugeot Center for Engineering Service to Developing Communities. With this project, they are trying to solve on-site problems that have delayed past projects by conducting a trial build of the bridge before leaving campus, said Kerry Patterson, associate professor of engineering and director of the Peugeot Center.

For past projects, all built in Guatemala, the bridge parts have been manufactured in Guatemala, and the mission teams didn’t see or work with them until arriving at the bridge site. This caused problems due to unforeseen design issues and errors in manufacturing, Patterson said.

This time, the student team, led by civil engineering alumnus Luke Burris (’12), is going to have the parts manufactured and perform the trial build on the Lipscomb campus.

The voluntary extracurricular project provides students with hands-on experience before they graduate and clearly demonstrates how they can use their job skills to improve people’s lives, said Burris, who was the student team leader for one of the other bridges Lipscomb has built in Central America.

The bridge will be 104 feet long, 7 ½ feet tall and 4 feet wide. It will sit just a foot or two off the ground on campus, but when constructed in Honduras, it will be high enough for highway traffic to go underneath.

The project is being done in partnership with Honduras Outreach Inc., a faith-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people of Honduras. HOI founded the San Esteban school, which has academic and athletics facilities on both sides of a busy highway. The road is expected to become even busier in the future as it will become the main access to a new port facility, so the bridge is sorely needed, said Patterson.

The bridges built previously by Lipscomb engineering students served to provide access over a river for remote villages in the mountains.

Since 2004, the engineering college has sponsored 25 volunteer mission teams providing 200 spots for students to carry out ministry support, disaster relief and community development in Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Half of the May 2014 engineering graduates participated in a mission trip before they completed their studies.