Editor’s Note: North American Geosynthetics Society president, Dean Sandri, originally wrote about Geo-Frontiers 2011 for IGS News. He, and IGS News, agreed to the revised printing of his commentary via this letter to the editor.
To the editor:
If you were there, you know it was a geo-success!
Kudos to organizers Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA), Geo-Institute (G-I) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the North American Geosynthetics Society (NAGS). They put together a fabulous conference—Geo-Frontiers 2011— that was enjoyed by nearly 2,000 attendees and more than 140 exhibitors.
Through the course of the three days, 500 papers were delivered, six educational short courses were provided, the Mercer, Peck, Seed, and Terzaghi lectures were presented, numerous organizational, corporate, industry, and personal meetings were hosted, and several programs/receptions/gatherings/competitions were shoehorned in-between.
If all of that wasn’t enough to absorb, the Geosynthetic Research Institute held GRI–24, “Optimizing Sustainability Using Geosynthetics,” which added another 20 papers and another track of activities to the week.
The technical paper sessions were moderated by industry icons and covered wide-ranging geo-subjects, including various interesting aspects of expansive soil, energy foundations, earth structures, barrier materials/protection liners, pavements, railroads, embankments, geo-education, soil modeling, geotextile tubes, landslides, deep foundations, site characterization, waste, seismic hazard mitigation, tunneling, and nearly anything else imaginable having to do with geosynthetics and soil.
To complement the papers, a poster session was also organized, which hosted a slew of excellent offerings on all areas of the geo world. If you were there, you found a track to attend or a poster display that was loaded with lots of good information to apply directly to your area of interest!
A highlight for many attending the conference was the student involvement and especially the talent exhibited by tomorrow’s engineers. The winner of the NAGS-sponsored student paper competition was Azadeh Hoor from Queen’s University for her paper, “Application of Thermal Insulation in Landfill Liners.” Ben Leshchinsky of Columbia University was first runner-up for his paper, “Enhancing Ballast Performance Using Geocell Confinement.
The winners of the GI-sponsored “Geo Challenge”—aka, see-how-little-reinforcement-can-be-used-to-build-an-MSE-wall-with-beach-sand-and-craft-paper-and-then-load-it-to-failure competition were Rensselaer Poly, followed in second place by Cal Poly–San Luis Obispo, with the University of Arkansas in third place.
Rensselaer students used only 7 grams of craft-paper reinforcement to build their structure, which successfully sustained the incredible target 50lbs vertical surcharge along with a 25-lb cantilever load. It was uplifting and inspiring to witness the enthusiasm of the youth participating in the activities in Dallas!
On a more serious note, Norbert Morgenstern teed up the technical week with the H. Bolton Seed Lecture, which was a practical-based presentation that related to engineering involvement in the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, titled “Risk and Reward: Geotechnical Engineering and the Alberta Oil Sands.”
For those involved in subgrade structures, tunneling, and seismic aspects of geotechnical engineering, Antonio Bobet delivered his “slant” during the Monday morning Peck Lecture, titled “Seismic Design of Underground Structures: Lessons from the Failure of the Daikai Station.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Kenneth Stokoe provided insight on the subject of “Seismic Measurements and Geotechnical Engineering” as he delivered the Terzaghi Lecture.
Lastly, on Wednesday morning, just five days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Japan on Friday, March 11, Junichi Koseki from Japan delivered his Mercer Lecture, “Use of Geosynthetics to Improve Seismic Performance of Earth Structures,” to a rousing ovation.
Not to be forgotten were the various sponsors for this successful conference. The sponsorships by manufacturers enabled food and drinks at reduced or no cost to the attendees, which helped to reduce out-of-pocket expenses while away from home. Food and drink at breaks, lunches in the exhibit hall, lunch at the Hero and Awards Luncheon, and hors d’oeuvres at the Welcome Reception were all top notch.
Several industry organizations held their annual or biennial meetings while in Dallas. The NAGS annual meeting included announcement of its new board of directors: Dean Sandri–president, Bob Mackey–president-elect, Dave Elton–immediate past president, Corey Bobba–treasurer; and vice presidents Marolo Alfaro, Richard Brackman, Jay McKelvey, and Dhani Narejo.
As with many conferences, numerous side meetings, gatherings, parties, reunions, business and personal get-togethers, and deals were planned, developed, and just plain happened!
For me, the week provided an opportunity to add to my technical knowledge base, see what products are being introduced and developed, catch up on where the geo-technology is heading, re-establish friendships that have been lost, visit with business colleagues to discuss the activities of the day, week, and year, jest with friendly competitors, strengthen relationships with many of the industry professionals that I only see at these conferences, and solidify the relationships with many of those I haven’t seen for years or those I just met during the week.
Lastly, and not to be forgotten, the conference provided a venue to fondly remember those not fortunate enough to attend Geo-Frontiers 2011 or who have passed away after dedicating a career to geosynthetics and were truly innovators of the geo-frontier and have provided us all the opportunity to work in this exciting and dynamic industry.
Anchor Wall Systems, President–North American Geosynthetics Society (NAGS)
Source: IGS News, Vol. 27 #2 2011, published with permission
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