UMSL seniors Christian Glock (left) and Todd Bergman will help repair a water tower in Ethiopia this summer as part of the Washington University chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA. (Photo by Alicia Hottle)

Two University of Missouri–St. Louis engineering students will clock nearly 16,000 miles round trip this summer to work on a construction project in Africa.

Seniors Todd Bergman, of St. Louis, and Christian Glock, of Shrewsbury, Mo., are civil engineering students in the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program at UMSL. They leave May 12 for a two-week trip to Mekele, Ethiopia, as part of the Washington University chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA. The organization works with local partners to design and implement sustainable engineering projects.

The two will be part of a team that is helping to repair the top slab of a water tower used to hold water during the dry season for a school for the blind.

“The existing slab on top is just failing,” Bergman said. “It was really poorly constructed.”

“This is an outstanding opportunity for the two of them to use their engineering skills to help a country like Ethiopia that needs these skills,” said Bernard Feldman, associate dean of the engineering program at UMSL.

“I’m just thankful that we get to be a part of it,” Bergman said.

While both have done some international traveling, they’ve never done anything close to this kind of long-haul trip.

“We have sore arms,” said Glock, laughing, in reference to all the shots the pair had to get in preparation for their African trip.

So, how do you prepare for a construction project in Ethiopia?

“You panic,” Glock joked. “I’m still kind of in shock.”

“It’s not going to really set in until I’m on the plane, to tell you the truth” Glock said. “It’s awesome. I’m amazed.”

Bergman is also in awe of his inclusion in the overseas construction project because he readily admits he was not a star pupil in high school.

“My parents are just shocked,” Bergman said. “They’re so very proud of me.”

In fact, Bergman was initially pursuing an information technology degree at another university before he realized it wasn’t the right fit.

“It really didn’t spark anything in me, and civil engineering really appealed to me because it’s the building blocks of society,” Bergman said.

Glock said his natural curiosity to know how structures are designed sparked his interest in pursuing civil engineering.

Both are hoping to one day become structural engineers.

Myra Lopez

Myra Lopez