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Educating the Educators on Geosynthetics

October 1st, 2015 / By: , / Industry News, News, Updates

Principal speakers at the Educate the Educators event (L–R): Barry Christopher, Jorge Zornberg, Richard Brachman.
Principal speakers at the Educate the Educators event (L–R): Barry Christopher, Jorge Zornberg, Richard Brachman.

Wouldn’t it be great if graduating civil engineering students knew much more about geosynthetics?

Frankly, it would be nice if they at least knew the difference between a geotextile and a geomembrane, wouldn’t it? Often, they don’t have the opportunity to study geosynthetics as part of their undergraduate civil engineering program in most North America universities. Industry training and continuing education offered by learned societies such as the North American Geosynthetics Society (NAGS) are essential for attaining the widespread, appropriate use of geosynthetic materials. How best then to increase the geosynthetics knowledge of graduating civil engineering students? One approach is to educate the educators.

Education and participation

“Educate the Educators: A Geosynthetics Training Program for University Professors”
was held July 28–29 in Austin, Texas. This program provided core geosynthetic content, background information, and materials for use in the classroom so college professors are able to offer fundamental geosynthetics instruction in their engineering programs.
The primary goal of the event was to teach every participant how to offer at least one 50-minute class on geosynthetics at the undergraduate level. Lecture notes and hands-on learning modules were provided to support this fundamental lecture. Additional class content and resources for senior undergraduate and graduate courses was also provided, presented, and discussed.

Forty-five professors participated in the July sessions—45% had six or fewer years of experience, 25% had 7-10 years of experience, and 30% had 11 or more years of experience. This led to excellence exchanges among the participants on education content and delivery methods.

More than half the group was somewhat to less familiar with geosynthetics—exactly the key target group to expand geosynthetics education. Those very familiar with geosynthetics contributed their expertise and ideas in small group discussions and received the latest state-of-practice content on wall and slope reinforcement, road and pavement applications, and environmental protection.

Speakers and industry support

The training sessions were led by NAGS members Jorge Zornberg of the University of Texas at Austin, geotechnical consultant Barry Christopher, and Richard Brachman of Queen’s University. Corporate sponsors contributed to technical education by providing informative and interesting case histories as well as special hands-on laboratory explanations and demonstrations by technical experts.

This educational event was chaired by Boyd Ramsey of GSE Environmental and created by the International Geosynthetics Society (IGS). The event was hosted by the IGS’s North American Chapter (NAGS) and supported by generous sponsors: the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA), the Geosynthetic Institute (GSI), TenCate Geosynthetics, the Erosion Control Technology Council (ECTC), Presto Geosystems, GSE Environmental, HUESKER, Thrace-LINQ, and TRI.

If you also believe in advancing the education and research of geosynthetics, visit our website.

John Henderson, P.E., is the global director–water & environment at TenCate Geosynthetics Americas and is the current president of the North American Geosynthetics Society.

Richard Brachman, Ph.D., PEng, is a professor of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada, and is the current president-elect of the North American Geosynthetics Society.

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