University of Southern Indiana

Engineering Students restore access for West Virginia Family (through Engineers in Action)

This June, the USI chapter of Engineers in Action (EIA), traveled to Spencer, West Virginia, for two weeks to construct a bridge for the Nichols family. Eight members of EIA, along with faculty and staff, first demolished the old bridge which was damaged in 2016 by a major flood. A new, larger bridge was then constructed and designed to carry a seven-and-a-half-ton load and allow the family access to resources and medical care year-round. This project was the USI chapter’s first solo project. It began with students being taught the design process before venturing to West Virginia, where they were given formal roles on the bridge site such as project manager. Financial support for the USI Bridge Project was generously provided by Windstream. The build was done in association with West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Mennonite Disaster Service and JZ Engineering. Without these sponsors, the trip to West Virginia would not have been possible for USI EIA. 

“For me, it is amazing the fact that I can help people and make this world a better place while doing what I enjoy the most in this life, which is engineering work,” says Diego Castillo Koussa, a civil engineering senior and member of the EIA. 

That’s exactly what these students got to do—be involved in important service work and get more “hands-on” engineering experience.  

This project wasn’t the first EIA project. In 2019, two students and two faculty members teamed up with Cornell University to help construct a 95-meter bridge in Mdlasomi, eSwatini in Africa to provide a connection to health care, education, markets, and safe travel for the people of Mdlasomi. Another project was planned with Cornell University in 2020, however, the pandemic cancelled it even though the bridge design was completed.  

Dr. Jason Hill, Associate Professor of Engineering and Supervisor of EIA says, “We have many of our contributors to the West Virginia project graduating soon.  We need more members to get involved in the chapter. Fundraising for a 2022 project in Boliva is critical for our chapter's success next year. 

EIA allows students opportunities to gain insightful and impactful experience in what they are passionate about—engineering 

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