The Structural Engineers Foundation of Washington (SEFW) hosted its fourth-annual Fall Forum on Thursday, September 18, 2014, at the Grand Hyatt Seattle. As the Thursday evening portion of the SEA Northwest Conference, SEFW hosted Avery Bang and Brooke Shore of Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), who presented a fascinating program highlighting their international nonprofit organization and their experiences building bridges in third-world countries.
The pre-function networking reception was a great success
Brooke Shore presents anecdotes from her experiences building footbridges
Avery Bang shares the history of the Bridges to Prosperity program
Avery began her presentation of "Bridges to Prosperity: Build to Educate" by describing the origins of B2P, dating to March 2001. The B2P founder saw a magazine picture of a destroyed bridge in Ethiopia, and he yearned to rebuild it. Since organizing that effort more than 10 years ago, B2P has facilitated construction of more than 160 bridges in 18 countries.
Why rural footbridges? The lack of bridges during rainy seasons limits access to schools, retail, jobs, and healthcare during the peak rainy season. Commerce in one of these small communities can increase 10-20 percent over 10 years with construction of a needed footbridge.
The B2P model isn’t to find funding, materials, and manpower and get in and out of a country in record time; instead the B2P model is to work with local, regional, and national authorities and organizations in the host countries and help the communities themselves build and take ownership of their bridge. B2P sees itself more as a “facilitator.” B2P often finds domestic construction partners – firms like Turner or Kiewit or universities like University of Iowa or University of Notre Dame – and then connects with municipalities and governments to complete the project. The mission of B2P is “Build to Innovate, Build to Educate, Build to Inspire.”
Avery and Brooke spoke about the specific types of bridges – either suspension, suspended, or a hybrid – and some construction challenges in various locations. Brooke also had many anecdotes about her time in Nicaragua and Panama working on bridges over the last several years. She told stories about the hard construction work – like the time her team and the locals cut, bent, and hand-tied an entire bridge’s worth of rebar, or the time the local children hand-painted each slat for a 219-ft suspension bridge – as well as the excitement of the “Inauguration Day” celebration.
By far the most fun of the evening was the Q&A session, where the presenters fielded questions about budget constraints, language barriers, living conditions, favorite memories, and more.
The 2014 Fall Forum fulfilled SEFW’s mission to “enhance the profession of structural engineering” very well. Bridges to Prosperity is an incredible organization that takes structural engineering at its basic level and serves the world. All 150+ in attendance at the lecture were truly inspired by the B2P concept, mission, and experience.
The lecture followed a networking reception, where attendees could connect with Avery and Brooke. It was truly an inspiring evening. Be sure to check our Videos section for a complete recording of the Forum.
Anyone wishing to learn more about Bridges to Prosperity can visit their website.
About our speakers:
Avery Bang joined B2P as a volunteer in 2006 and now serves as CEO. At B2P Avery has developed a scalable model for pedestrian bridge building and training in rural developing communities.
Avery received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from the University of Iowa, and later completed a Masters Degree in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her graduate research, conducted with National Academy of Engineering member Bernard Amadei, considered appropriate geotechnical survey and design for rural lowtech applications.
Avery was named one of ENR’s Top 25 Newsmakers of 2012, and subsequently named one of ENR Mountain Region’s 2013 Top 20 Under 40. She received an honorary doctorate from Clarkson University in 2014.
She currently resides in Denver.
Brooke Shore joined B2P as a volunteer in May of 2013 and since then has spent time working on several bridges in Nicaragua and Panama. Most recently she served as the Technical Mentor for the Portland State University team that constructed the Las Carpas bridges in Nicaragua. She is very grateful to have had the opportunity to combine her loves of adventure and construction with B2P, and to use her time and skills to help others.
Brooke grew up in Washington State and earned her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 2002 from the University of Utah. Professionally, she has worked with Jacobs, SDA Engineers, and PCL Construction. ENR Northwest named Brooke one of the 2014 Top Young Professionals Under 40.
She is currently located in Victoria, BC. She is a registered PE in Washington.
SEFW is grateful to the 25 local firms that sponsored the Forum, several of which were new supporters this year. Funds generated from this event will go toward future educational events, the scholarship fund, and other exciting engineering outreach efforts, like SEFW’s new Washington STEM partnership. Our sponsors included:
Couglin Porter Lundeen
Green & Yalowitz
Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Malsam Tsang Engineering
Michael J. Hall and Company
Smith & Huston
Mark and Linda D'Amato
Quantum Consulting Engineers
Wetherholt and Associates
American Institute of Architects, Seattle Chapter
American Institute of Architects, Spokane Chapter
ASCE Seattle Section
Engineers Without Borders
Portland Cement Association
Seattle Architectural Foundation
Structural Engineers Association of Washington
University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Washington Association of Building Officials
Washington State University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering