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Engineers Without Borders: Civil engineer puts skills to use in Morocco

Published July 18, 2013

With a passport and work boots in tow, Brian Phelps, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District Civil Engineer took a break from his desk job and flew to Morocco, Africa in June to volunteer with Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

EWB sends professionals and students to developing countries around the world to construct necessary engineering projects. When a friend and former Louisville District co-worker approached Phelps to serve as a professional mentor with a group of students from Columbia University, Phelps couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

While overseas, Phelps primarily helped oversee and assist with construction of a 210-foot long footbridge in the Ait Bayoud community. “Consistent access to many facilities and services in the community such as schools, the health clinic and markets was made impossible during the rainy season due to severe flash flooding over the Tagawowt River,” said Phelps.


Students constructed the bridge along with local labor and two representatives from the Peace Corps.  In addition to mentoring the students and troubleshooting problems, Phelps was mainly responsible for installing safety netting on both sides of the bridge.

 “Working with the students and helping the locals of Ait Bayoud has been an amazing experience,” said Phelps. “Watching the residents cross the bridge for the first time is something I'll never forget.”


Phelps, who travelled to Morocco twice this year—for ten days in January and the latest trip in June— says the experience has enriched his life.


“With EWB, I've been able to see a different part of the world that I more than likely never would have and have been able to meet other engineering professionals for possible networking in the future,” said Phelps.