Students win engineering grand prize

Dordt College students win 2017 NCEES engineering award

The Dordt College Engineering Department won the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Engineering Education Grand Prize for their senior design project Liberia Farm Bridge.

Dordt engineering students constructed a bridge in response to the needs of a Liberian farming community. The residents, who previously only had a footbridge that gave them access to more farmland, now have a bridge that can support up to 30 tons of weight and can withstand floods during the rainy season. Students designed the bridge in one semester and constructed it in only eight days—compared to the expected three weeks—with the help of 30 local Liberians.

The team of students included Eric Fedders (Sioux Center), Peter Hoelsema (Dorr, Michigan), Austin Lindemulder (Lansing, Illinois), and Kyle Vander Zee (South Holland, Illinois). Advisors were Dordt College Professors Joel Sikkema and Justin Vander Werff.

Sikkema, the project mentor, commended the students for their dedication and willingness to use their talents to serve those in need. “The students thought holistically about the project—they didn’t just consider the technical elements, but also the economic and cultural elements,” he said. “They focused on serving, and that affected how they approached the project.”

The project started with conversations with the founder of the non-profit organization One Body One Hope about the needs of Liberian communities. Soon, a team of four engineering students came together, working alongside professionals in engineering and other disciplines, to design a bridge that would better suit the needs of the community. Twenty-seven U.S. companies contributed to the bridge’s construction, including several local companies.

Dordt College Provost Eric Forseth said the award was a tribute to the Engineering Department’s commitment to Dordt’s mission for Christ-centered renewal. “What is even more amazing is the broad-based humble participation of engineers, business students, campus ministries, and a wide range of majors represented on A Mission OutReach (AMOR) team,” said Forseth. “We are grateful this type of initiative is making a difference for the Liberian people and One Body One Hope ministry.”

NCEES Engineering Education Award juror Sallye Perrin, P.E., said, “This project provided a sustainable solution to needed infrastructure and contributed to the economic vitality of rural communities in Harbel, Liberia. The collaboration between the students and P.E.s is commendable.”

The NCEES Engineering Education Award honors college engineering programs that engage students in projects with professional engineers. Dordt College will receive $25,000, and five other schools will receive $7,500. This year, 16 projects were submitted from colleges across the country.

The jury considers many factors when determining the grand prize winner, including successful collaboration of faculty, students, and professional engineers, the protection of public health, and participation from several different disciplines.

Representatives from the Dordt College team will travel to Miami, Florida, in August to receive their prize.

To watch a time lapse of the construction, go to http://bit.ly/2srxTix