Notre Dame Students Empowering through Engineering Development (NDSEED)
International Educational Opportunity Grant
Notre Dame Students Empowering through Engineering Development (NDSEED) was founded in 2008 and has successfully partnered with rural Central American Communities to construct five footbridges over the last five years with the support of the NGO Bridges to Prosperity (B2P). Through this partnership, engineering students experience how their skills as engineers can help to transform the lives of isolated rural communities with limited access to critical services due to seasonal flooding. The team of students completely oversees this process, which includes marketing, fundraising, logistics, design, construction, and in recent years additional evaluation functions including site selection and impact assessment. Through their work, NDSEED teams deliver the tangible benefits of a pedestrian bridge to a community in need. At the same time they are charged each year with adding and integrating new knowledge into the NDSEED program in order to expand its impact and effectiveness in community engagement and, over time, achieve capacity building in developing regions.
This year’s NDSEED team has recognized that longitudinal research in these rural communities is crucial in order to (1) effectively evaluate the impact of these bridges and (2) to begin analyzing cultural interpretations of safety, maintenance and community ownership of these projects to ensure their long-term sustainability. This year’s bridge site provides a unique proving ground for these concepts due to its close proximity to last year’s bridge. Therefore, this year’s team has elected to develop evaluation tools to perform an analysis that will assess the communication of construction safety to community members assisting in the building of the new bridge and the evaluation of their preparedness and ability to execute annual inspection and maintenance of the earlier bridge. The program will include three aspects: (1) execution of longitudinal impact assessments, (2) development of a culturally-appropriate program to introduce safety and maintenance activities using the tandem bridge sites and (3) physical construction of a much needed pedestrian bridge in partnership with local residents and B2P to provide access to schools, health clinics, and markets for a population of over 500 individuals.