Engineers in Action: Eswatini Suspended Bridge; The Battle Against Sea Level Rise

Castro Alfaro, Jose Raul, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Ferguson, Sean, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Gomez, Jose, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia

When I was applying to college, I decided to pursue Civil Engineering because I wanted to create a more innovative future in construction. However, these past four years have shown me that there is so much more to this career than just building bridges or designing buildings. As my college experience comes to a close, I decided to pursue two loosely related projects with my Capstone and STS Research Project, to address problems and improve ways of life in third-world countries.

I decided to join a Capstone team tasked with designing a bridge to help a community in Eswatini, Africa, complete everyday tasks. This community has hardships when it comes to crossing a watershed that separates the fields where they harvest their crops and edifications like schools and hospitals. There is already a wooden suspension bridge to cross the river; however, we are looking for a safer and more durable option. The task was to design a footbridge to help the community have more access to food, health, and education. This Capstone project opened my eyes to problems that third world countries face in the future because of not having the resources or the education to tackle the issue of climate change and sea-level rise.

With this in mind, I decided for the STS Research project to discuss these problems in third-world countries worldwide, specifically in Panama. Since it is my birthplace, I have an idea of the places and problems discussed in the thesis, which gives me the necessary tools to conduct the best research possible. The study includes why Panama is a country that is very prone to suffer significant effects from the growing catastrophe, efforts that Panama has put forward to deal with the problem, and discusses blue and green infrastructure solutions to limit the impact that sea-level rise will cause to the country. I was amazed to find out that Panama has already put in the effort to gather local data to make more accurate depictions of what should be done to salvage the country. However, there are a lot of complications that limit them when trying to find solutions that will be discussed more in-depth in the paper.

I was delighted with how the Capstone project and the STS Research paper developed during the two-semester span and pleased with the findings. The Capstone team worked like a well-oiled machine that provided Engineers in Action with a very efficient design to their liking. And although I ran into some complications with the research aspect of the STS project because there was not much available information about the country regarding the problem, I felt that the points discussed serve as a good stepping stone for more research in the future. I want to thank all my Capstone teammates, Professor Gomez and Engineers in Action for providing me with the opportunity to have such a positive impact on a community, and Professor Ferguson, who served as my mentor throughout the STS Research Project.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Sea Level Rise, Panama, Sustainable Transitions, Mangroves, Ministry of the Environment

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Technical Advisor: Jose Gomez
STS Advisor: Sean Ferguson
Technical Team Members: Jack Smith T, Bryson Thomas, Gabrielle Jennings, Haley Dues, Kathryn Wagner, Mackenzie Beavers, Yamal Andonie

Issued Date: