The Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) Chapter at Michigan Tech has been working with the communities of Santa Barbara and Buena Vista, Bolivia to address the major regional problem of roadway flooding and erosion during the rainy season. When the road becomes impassable, as it frequently does in these months, it can completely cut off community members from access to healthcare, agricultural work, education, and commerce. In May of 2019, five student members and one alumni advisor traveled to Bolivia to assess the situation and the needs of the communities. During their visit, the team utilized drones to topographically map the community and 8 km of road leading to and from Buena Vista. They also met with local government officials to discuss the problem and potential solutions and held an introductory meeting with community members.
In the coming year at Michigan Tech, the team will use the data they collected to design and eventually implement affordable and sustainable solutions, potentially including culverts, drainage ditches, and alternative materials and road resurfacing methods. EWB-USA community partnerships last for a minimum of 5 years and work to address basic human needs through projects in water distribution, sanitation, energy, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure.