When getting involved with the CU-Boulder chapter of Bridges to Prosperity, not only do students have the opportunity to test their engineering skills but they also have a chance to improve the lives of others.
Nonprofit Bridges to Prosperity builds bridges in developing communities where the people of rural areas cannot access critical services, such as health care facilities, schools and markets, during the rainy season, says Garrett Sprouse, a senior majoring in environmental engineering and member of the CU-Boulder Bridges to Prosperity chapter. In Bolivia, which is the focus of the CU-Boulder chapter, the rivers can swell up to 20 feet, but the pedestrian footbridges allow the locals access to all of the necessities.
From fundraising and design to fabrication, students are involved in each step of the bridge-building process, Sprouse says. Much of Bridges to Prosperity’s capital comes from grants and private donations, but the students also put on a large fundraiser with a silent auction, raffle and live music as well as smaller events on campus. By involving themselves throughout the entire process, students gain a well-rounded experience of what it takes to successfully fund and implement a project of this level.
“We do everything ourselves, which is a great experience,” Sprouse says. “We fundraise for the bridge, write grants and conduct public outreach to tell people and what we do and who we are. The students even design the bridges and go over and build them.”
Once the students complete the design, Bridges to Prosperity’s advisory board, which is made up of the industry’s leading experts, looks over the plan to ensure it is safe and functional, Sprouse says. This provides students with insight into how their academic knowledge translates to real-life applications while also giving them the chance to network with major industry players.
“It’s a great opportunity to see how the engineering industry works, and you get to meet a lot of great people who are high up in the industry,” Sprouse says. “Bridges to Prosperity allows me to take what I’ve learned in school and apply it somewhere else in the world. You’re really making a difference and making people’s lives better.”