Michael Baker Engineer Returns from Engineers Without Borders Trip

January 08, 2018

John Zuleger (Bridge Engineer in Michael Baker International’s Louisville, Ky., office) recently returned from a five-day trip to Costa Rica with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) to help plan and build a vehicular bridge. John traveled with the University of Louisville chapter of EWB to Puerto Jimenez in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.

University of Louisville students (from left: Samantha Stanton, Simon Frink, Ethan Mills) and John Zuleger at the Rio Riyitos Bridge site
The mission of EWB is to build a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world's most pressing challenges. They partner with communities in the world’s toughest places to build footbridges, to install solar panels, to dig for water and more. Each project builds the foundation for a community to thrive for years to come.
Michael Baker initially partnered with EWB in 2009 to demonstrate our Company’s core philosophy that We Make a Difference around the world. The program provides team members opportunities to travel and work on projects in Asia, Central America, South America and Africa and Michael Baker provides sponsorship dollars to defray the cost of travel for colleagues who volunteer.
Local resident, Rafa, demonstrating bridge crossing.
John joined the EWB Louisville trip as a professional mentor after residents from three communities in Costa Rica – Riyitos, Banegas and Alto Laguna – contacted EWB Louisville through the Peace Corps. Residents asked for help in developing a solution to a river crossing in the area connecting the communities.
The focus of the trip was an initial assessment to begin the design and implementation of a bridge crossing Rio Riyitos. The EWB team investigated the site, collaborated with the community, and identified resources available to construct the bridge. Surveying and final bridge construction are scheduled for future trips.
John’s role as expert engineer was to guide the students through all aspects of building a bridge, from concept to construction. For this initial trip, he helped them to understand and implement site investigation, site survey and geotechnical investigation, as well as to facilitate communications between various stakeholders of the project.
Project team meeting with Osa Peninsula governmental engineers to develop site plan.
“My experience with Engineers Without Borders in Costa Rica was often challenging - physically, mentally and emotionally – but it was extremely rewarding at the end of the day,” said John. “I was able to collaborate with students and residents to come up with a safe and reliable solution to connect these neighboring communities. It was refreshing when we overcame language barriers and cultural differences to understand each other and build a trusting relationship.”
John and other Michael Baker team members will return to Costa Rica in May to start site survey and provide construction documents with EWB Louisville.