Engineering Frontiers FOCUS Alumns: Philip Danser, Maria Gibbs & Patrick Ye

During the summer of 2009, a group of Engineering Frontiers FOCUS alums traveled to Bolivia to construct a bridge in the country's flood prone highlands that will create a river crossing to benefit multiple communities by improving their access to agricultural markets, grazing land, schools, and health clinics.

These Alums included Philip Danser, Maria Gibbs and Patrick Ye:

Philip Danser, Civil Engineering & Public Policy Studies 2011 / Engineering Frontiers Alum 2007

Philip traveled to Bolivia during the summer of 2009 to construct the bridge. He is the recipient of a Stay In FOCUS Grant through for his research project entitled "Cost to Benefit Analysis to Assess Economic Impact of Constructing a Bridge in Rural Bolivia." During his freshman year, Philip led a FOCUS-sponsored field trip to visit production facilities of Interface Global, the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet and a leader in sustainable manufacturing processes.

"For me, the most valuable aspect of FOCUS is the lasting community it created for me on campus, inclusive of student and professors. I am finding that most of my closest friends are Engineering Frontiers FOCUS alums. At a recent lunch discussion with one of the FOCUS faculty, there were three generations of FOCUS students represented at the table, two were from the year above me and one from a year below."

Maria Gibbs, Civil Engineering 2012 / Engineering Frontiers Alum 2008

Maria was a member of the Bolivia team and traveled to Bolivia to help with the construction of the bridge and conduct research on the role of international volunteers in rural Bolivian social structure for which she has received a Stay in FOCUS Grant. Maria is enrolled in CE142, and is working with a team of two seniors and one freshman to design a pier supported short-span bridge which will serve as a potential design for the Bolivia team.

"As a freshman who came to Duke excited about engineering, the Focus Program gave me the unique opportunity to channel that excitement into coursework that pertained directly to solving real world engineering problems. My FOCUS classes allowed my to supplement the generic engineering introductory classes I was enrolled in along with my peers with courses like Engineering the Planet, where I was introduced to ArcGIS, a software product my classmates and I used to view spatial data, create maps, and perform basic spatial analysis."

Patrick Ye, Biomedical Engineering 2010 / Engineering Frontiers Alum 2006

Patrick was the project leader for the bridge in Bolivia project. The idea for this project came to Patrick during class when one of his FOCUS professors mentioned her archaeology research is in Obrajes, Bolivia. During the previous summer she heard many many of her local workers express the need for a bridge. Patrick traveled to Bolivia in May 2008 as part of the site assessment team to collect engineering data and interview community members.

"I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspects of the FOCUS courses I took. Never before have I been exposed to not just engineering challenges but also environmental, public policy, and ethical issues. Being around classmates that are passionate, visionary, and globally-aware has been very inspirational to me. I am very glad to have met these amazing people, and to this day, I am good friends with many of my fellow FOCUS-mates."