Posted by Jim Bolas
Former President Heather Dieckmann chaired the meeting 
Club Meeting Program Schedule
May 17th – Club Assembly
May 18th-20th – Rotary District 7300 Conference – Seven Springs
➢ Heather Dieckmann
• District Conference – President Dieckmann reminded the members of the upcoming District 7300 Conference.
Speaker – Abby Cowser – Penn State Junior Engineer
Club Service Director Jim Hinerman introduced Abby Cowser, a Penn State engineering student, who attends his church, John McMillan Presbyterian, in Bethel Park who is to speak about building bridges in Africa.
Abby is in her junior year studying civil engineering at Penn State main campus and joined the Penn State chapter of Bridges to Prosperity (, a non-profit engaged in the design and building of bridges in rural communities in South America and Africa. The organization and its college chapters help communities out of poverty and provide them important access to education, work, trade, and travel. The Penn State chapter was established in 2014.
It has been determined that such bridges provide on average a return on investment of at least 6:1. The Penn State chapter sent 8 civil engineering students, including Abby, to Rwanda. Rwanda is a land-locked country surrounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania. It declared independence from Belgium in 1962 and has a population of 11 million people comprised of the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa tribes. Women provide important leadership in communities and in the country’s parliament where they hold almost 2/3 of the seats.
The project was to build a 200-foot bridge spanning a river which is a stream in the dry season and a roaring torrent during the rainy season. For the community crossing the river is critical to provide access to farmland, schools and the community.
The bridge design was provided by engineers from the non-profit in collaboration with the Penn State engineering students. Bridge construction was 8 weeks long with the Penn State engineers participating in the last 4 weeks of the project. 
Financing of the bridge projects comes from corporate sponsors, the American Association of Civil Engineers (AACE) and through crowdfunding.
Abby showed a Powerpoint presentation of the Rwanda community in which the bridge was built, the Rwandans who participated in the project, a marketplace where food was bought and pictures of the bridge construction and the engineering team.
The members in attendance thanked Abby for her presentation and gave her a healthy round of applause.
Abby Cowser with Heather Dieckmann, Club President