Engineering Development
Learn how product and process innovations address the infrastructure challenges of the developing world.

Notre Dame Students Empowering through Engineering Development (NDSEED)


NDSEED was formed in February 2008 at the University of Notre Dame when six civil engineering students decided to combine their academic interests with their passion for service in support of their university’s mission. Inspired by the example of Continental Crossings, a group of students from the University of Iowa, NDSEED formed a partnership with the non-profit organization Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) to empower a rural Honduran community with a footbridge in the summer of 2009, providing much needed access to healthcare, education and marketplaces. Since those humble beginnings, NDSEED is now officially part of the B2P university program, and, enabled by their training and material donations, has gone on to build bridges alongside communities in three Central American countries.

Undergraduate students on the team spend their academic year designing the bridge, fundraising about $25,000 to support travel and construction costs, and developing the entire construction and implementation plan. Then each May, the team departs campus to spend 8 weeks in-country executing the bridge construction alongside members of the community, fully immersing themselves with their new brothers and sisters. This immersion experience has been enhanced further by NDSEED’s partnership with Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concern’s International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP), which provides financial support, pre-immersion preparation, and post-immersion exchange with other students participating in abroad service activities.

Thanks also to the longstanding partnership with Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, ND SEED has been able to broaden its scope to include collaborations with universities in-country and facilitate an expansion of its technical capacity for site selection, needs assessment, impact evaluation and safety training. As part of this process, in 2012, ND SEED expanded its annual membership and operational model to take greater ownership of all aspects of their B2P projects. Thanks to Kellogg funding, NDSEED students now assess the impact of their bridges in communities they have served in past years and to select candidate sites for the following year. To facilitate this longitudinal impact assessment and greater autonomy in its operations, NDSEED plans to maintain a permanent presence in Nicaragua.

To date, NDSEED has completed five bridges in three countries. This achievement is made possible through the dedication of NDSEED teams past and present and the support and partnership with B2P, Kellogg and ISSLP. However this would also not be possible without the support of the College of Engineering, the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences, and the many individual donors who have committed themselves to Building Bridges and Building Hope.

Bridge 1: Pena Blanca, Honduras (2009): 34 m span serving 100 people with an expected crossing rate of 25 people per day, dedicated in honor of the first NDSEED faculty advisor, Dr. David Kirkner.

Bridge 2: Palqui, Guatemala (2010): 47 m span crossing the Quebrada Palqui River, Uspantán, serving 160 people with an expected crossing rate of 50 people per day.

Bridge 3: San Diego Nicaragua (2011): 120 m span crossing the Rio Citalapa to serve 1,000 people with 400 people crossing per day. The long span of this bridge required additional wind guys to stabilize it against lateral sway.

Bridge 4: San Francisco Nicaragua (2012): 40 m span crossing the Quebrada Oscura River serving 2,500 people with expected traffic of 200 people per day

Bridge 5: El Sol, Nicaragua (2013):42 m span crossing the Rio Guanacaste serving 1,500 people with expected traffic of 250 people per day.

Bridge 6: Mata de Tules, Nicaragua (2014):40 m span crossing the Ochomogo River serving 500 people with expected traffic of 80 people per day.

Project Website: NDSEED.ND.EDU

Recommended Viewing

October 19, 2013 USC-ND Game "What Would You Fight For?" Commercial (NBC)

Engineering2Empower (E2E)

E2E was founded in 2010, in direct response to the January 2010 Haiti Earthquake by University of Notre Dame civil engineering faculty, Dr. Tracy Kijewski-Correa and Dr. Alexandros Taflanidis, and graduate student Dustin Mix. What started as a pure engineering reconnaissance mission quickly turned into much more when the founders realized the underlying problems plaguing housing in Haiti. Frustrated by the lack of careful and thoughtful consideration of permanent housing solutions after the earthquake, E2E was founded with a focus on a multidisciplinary, sustainable, and innovative approach.  E2E started as an organization committed to exploring new approaches and solutions to the Haitian housing problem. E2E has since expanded in its size to two Community Representatives in Léogâne, Haiti (Lamarre Presuma and Jean Edson) and a team of undergraduate students as well as a large set of both university and non-university partners.

As E2E further developed its approach and solution, through intense engagement with the Haitian population, its founders came to the realization that simple exploration and recommendations of solutions would not suffice to bring about the change it envisions. With this in mind, E2E started to build out a strategy that more fully encompassed its vision for sustainable, developing world urban housing solutions. This strategy included not only an alternate residential housing structural system, but also a business model and a community-led innovation framework. The combination of a housing solution, a business model tied to that solution, as well as a framework and theory for engaging local populations is the embodiment of E2E’s vision, differentiating it from the current solutions being offered.

Going forward, E2E will continue to carry out three critical activities: listening, innovating, and empowering solutions. E2E is committed to proving the viability of its model in Haiti, but in expanding its operations into other developing countries that face similar urban housing challenges. E2E’s focus on guiding principles and creating overarching frameworks allows it to apply its efforts to new populations, even if the form and content of those solutions differ from the one implemented in Haiti.


Our primary focus is Risk Mitigation through Innovative Housing Systems produced by Haitian-owned and operated businesses serving highly vulnerable, resource-constrained markets. Our housing system was conceived using a four pillar strategy that focuses on resiliency, sustainability, feasibility, and viability, so that solutions recognize the economic, political, cultural and capacity constraints that would preclude many otherwise sound engineering remedies. The design was founded on detailed forensic investigations following the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and fosters community-led recovery, including savings groups, communal construction resources, and paraskilled prefabrication of housing components.

This work has been informed by Community-Led Needs Assessments, allowing quantification of perceived vulnerability in homes, personal urgency and barriers to secure safe housing, and personal expectations for a dignified home. Data was collected in Haiti for approximately 1400 IDPs in Leogane and has led to an interesting study on post-disaster recovery in the urban housing sector. The IDP interviews included enrollment in our innovative savings program called Kat Epay (“Savings Card” in Creole) using SMS messaging to track self-reported savings toward reconstruction among IDPs each month.

Mobile platforms are a powerful tool in developing settings which we have now extended to Community Vulnerability Mapping. This approach was conceived following the detailed forensic analysis of over 50 collapsed/damaged homes in Leogane, Haiti, which then spurred our development of a standardized schema for execution of housing assessments by non-experts building on my earlier crowdsourcing research. This assessment framework was initially calibrated using geotagged images of damaged homes in Leogane and then converted into a mobile application for Android that was piloted in the Summer of 2013 in Ecuador and Costa Rica. A second app for iOS is now being developed to allow mobile reporting of not only damage to structures but also various meteorological and geophysical hazard characteristics aggregated into an OpenStreet Maps framework.

Risk awareness can most effectively translate into action through the use of Participatory Community Planning and Collective Problem Solving. This goes well beyond our early work that developed rubrics calibrated by community feedback to score potential interventions across a dozen dimensions so that truly optimal solutions can be identified. Today our Innovation Incubator invites communities in Haiti to conceive and then incubate solutions to their own development challenges. We have designed processes to screen leaders and natural innovators at the neighborhood level and bring them into tiered creative environments within their own neighborhoods where they can then incubate solutions. We have found this particularly effective in not only discovering the most viable solutions to identified risks, but more importantly for instilling a sense of ownership of solutions at the grassroots level and allowing the architects of these solutions to champion them from within each neighborhood, which is essential to change collective patterns of vulnerable behaviors.

Project Website: E2E.ND.EDU

Recommended Viewing

“Empowering Sustainable Reconstruction of the Residential Sector Following the 2010 Haitian Earthquake,” Keynote Address, CONSTRUCT Conference, Phoenix, AZ, September 12, 2102.

Recommended Reading

Kijewski-Correa, T., Taflanidis, A. A., Mix, D. and Kavanagh, R. (2012) “An Empowerment Model for Sustainable Residential Reconstruction in Léogâne, Haiti, After the January 2010 Earthquake," Leadership and Management in Engineering, October: 271-287.

Kijewski-Correa, T. and Taflanidis, A.A. (2011) "The Haiti Housing Dilemma: Can Sustainability and Hazard-Resilience Be Achieved," Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering, November 10: 1-7.

Mix, D., Kijewski-Correa, T. and Taflanidis, A. A. (2011) “Assessment of Residential Housing in Léogâne, Haiti After the January 2010 Earthquake and Identification of Needs of Rebuilding,” Earthquake Spectra, 27 (S1): S299.

Mix, D. (2013), Empowerment Model for Post-Quake Reconstruction of Urban Housing in Haiti, MSCE Thesis, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN.