PacSci Perspectives

To Dream Big, Go Small: Avery Bang’s Simple Genius

by | Mar 10, 2017

Some of the greatest works of engineering are simple. Meet Avery Bang, an engineer building bridges across the world. Though offered a better paying, more prestigious job, she chose to go abroad and create sustainable, simple bridges that offer communities greater opportunities.

Avery has been doing humanitarian work since she was a child. As the daughter of a civil engineer, she grew up participating in on public works projects with her family, so her understanding of engineering as a service began at a young age. But her decision to dedicate her working life to simple, humanitarian projects began when she was working on a Fijian island, constructing foot bridges for locals.

This work is what ultimately inspired Avery to focus on building simple, sustainable technology for impoverished peoples. This took her to Haiti. The village she came to was blocked off from the main town by a large river. Locals couldn’t get medical supplies and children couldn’t go to school without crossing it. At least one person drowns per year, according to locals. Avery knew there were many ways to help, including importing materials and bringing in foreign engineers. She also knew, however, that this bridge would have to be something sustainable. Could these villagers afford to import materials if the bridge needed repairs? Who would repair it in an emergency? Avery built a footbridge using local materials, local engineers and used a simple enough that non-engineers in the village could repair it. Even after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, locals were able to repair the bridge. It is still in use today!

Avery is now the CEO of Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), where she started as a volunteer in 2006. She teaches Cable Supported Pedestrian Bridge Design at the University of Colorado. She has been recognized by the Engineer News Record (ENR) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for her work, and is studying to receive her MBA at Oxford University. As CEO of B2P, she continues her engineering work.

Learn more about Avery’s work in Dream Big: Engineering Our World 3D, now screening in our Boeing IMAX Theater.