"In Haiti, you need a warm smile and a handshake and you are best friends," says Matt Capelli, recent Virginia Tech graduate in civil engineering. Capelli and four other Tech students are using their engineering savvy to build a bridge for the village of Ti Péligre, situated four hours from Port-au-Prince in a remote mountainous area.
The 210-foot-long suspension bridge over the Thomonde River will allow residents to get emergency medical care, take their produce to market, and send their children to schooling beyond the fourth grade.
Over Thanksgiving break in 2009, the Virginia Tech students conducted a feasibility study for the bridge, expecting to begin construction in early 2010. While the earthquake delayed those plans, the project is on target to be completed before the next rainy season begins in 2011.Virginia Tech engineering students -- Nick Mason, Katie Masoero, Zach Lawler, and Tyler Welsh -- spent the first half of January in Haiti working on a bridge project. They worked on and oversaw stage two of construction.
"It's changed me and it's changed how I want to use my engineering degree," Capelli says. "I want to spend a lot of time in my life helping out places like Haiti."
To learn about other work being done in Haiti, see the related Spotlight article: Virginia Tech team improves soil in Haiti.