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USI Engineers in Action to build largest footbridge to date in South Africa

June 12, 2024

This June, four University of Southern Indiana students from the USI Engineers in Action (EIA) chapter, led by Dr. Susan Ely, Assistant Professor of Engineering, will depart on a trip to Lubombo, Eswatini, in South Africa to develop a pedestrian bridge as a part of an EIA project to connect isolated communities to critical services such as shops, schools, clinics, co-ops, churches and more. 

The bridge will be the largest pedestrian footbridge ever built by USI’s chapter, spanning 106.05 meters, and will take almost two months to build. Over 4,000 residents and more than 1,800 children will be impacted by the project. The current bridge is in a state of disrepair after seasonal flooding, and the new bridge will ensure year-round safe passage for members of the communities. 

Among the students going are Miguel Pinto '25, electrical engineering major, Melanie Cedeno '24, electrical engineering major, and Josiah Hollis '25, electrical engineering major, who all participated in 2023's EIA bridge project in eSwatini. New to the team this year is Jonas Hollis '27, manufacturing engineering major. Cultural education and immersion are also part of the trip as students stay with local host families, communicate with local government officials and participate in community events. 

USI students and staff will again take the lead on this year’s project, leading in design, construction and quality control. Each student will take on a specific role such as lead construction manager, safety manager or media manager to ensure the project stays on schedule. Others involved will be EIA teams from Eastern Mennonite University and the University of Iowa in designing and building the Eswatini bridge, in addition to BridgeCorp and community volunteers. 

“This EIA bridge team is full of experienced individuals who have participated in previous trips and will guide the other students from the supporting institutions,“ said Ely. “USI's dedication to this humanitarian engineering experience demonstrates our desire to not only educate but develop global leaders and individuals who care about the world around them.”   

USI’s EIA chapter is a part of the national EIA organization which improves the lives of thousands of people every year by building critical infrastructure in their communities including bridges and access to clean water. USI has sent student teams to Eswatini in South Africa in 2023, Bolivia in 2022, West Virginia in 2021 and Eswatini in South Africa in 2019  

Students of all majors are invited to participate in EIA and bridge project events. For more information about EIA, contact Ely at For more information about USI’s accredited Engineering Department, visit  

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