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Dordt College Engineering Wins Prize for Bridge in Liberia


Four graduates of the engineering program at Dordt College recently won the grand prize for their work on a bridge for the people of Liberia, a $25,000 award from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

According to Professor Joel Sikkema, assistant professor of engineering and also faculty advisor of the project, the cash will be divided up with part of the award going to One Body, One Hope, for its work in Liberia. Another portion of the award will help establish a fund so that future engineering students can do similar projects. The last portion of the award will go to the participants as a statement of gratitude. “This was an exceedingly difficult project that required a high level of commitment,” Sikkema said.

Eric Fedders (Sioux Center, Iowa), Peter Hoelsema (Dorr, Mich.), Austin Lindemulder (Lansing, Ill.), and Kyle Vander Zee (South Holland, Ill.), completed the bridge as part of their senior design project in 2016. Lindemulder said the idea came from a conversation he had with Aaron Baart, Dean of Chapel at Dordt College. Lindemulder asked Baart what the people of Liberia needed and what he could use his skills for.

The reply came that they needed a bridge. This idea stuck with Lindemulder and he asked Fedders, Hoelsema, and Vander Zee if they would like to be involved.

In August 2015, Lindemulder went to Liberia to take measurements, collect data and also find a location for the bridge. Other preparations were also made which included “designing the bridge, repurposing the beams, organizing construction equipment and coming up with a detailed construction plan.” On December 7, 2015, the group left to construct the bridge. The task was completed on December 31, 2015, with the involvement of 30 Liberians, according to Lindemulder.

Lindemulder reflected on the project. “We could not have done any of it without the support and advice we got from the engineering department at Dordt, as well as the whole community who prayed for and gave to make this possible. The main beams in the project are  actually re-purposed beams from the old hospital in Sioux Center when it was torn down. The community gave towards this project in so many ways including financial gifts and services to fabricate the beams to the needed length and quality through cutting, sandblasting, and painting. This project was not our project, but of a whole community. We are simply blessed and humbled we got to be the ones to carry it out. To God be the glory of it all.”

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