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Geo-Institute: Engaging the Geotech Community Through the Pandemic

05 Mar 2021 5:58 PM | Anonymous

When the ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter (G-I) started planning the 2020/2021 program year we did not know if, when, or how we could even hold events. The Pittsburgh ASCE-GI dinner lecture series have always been very popular with the local geotechnical community.  The series provides a chance  to socialize, network, and learn from informative presentations. Cancelling the program year was not an option.  New G-I committee members were elected to the G-I Board in Spring 2020 and knew that  they had to find a way to carry on the torch of  the dinner series and was immediately tasked with the challenge of finding new ways to engage with the geotechnical community during the COVID pandemic.   

We decided that the best and safest way to proceed was to begin hosting the dinner series as virtual webinars. We all missed the typical food, drink, socializing, and networking of the normal dinner series; but the presentations to the geotechnical community could continue. The Pittsburgh Geo-Institute worked hard to line up engaging and exciting guest speakers for the 2020/2021 webinar series.

After organizing such a great speaker line up the GI board members wanted to ensure that the platform and time they picked for their webinar series ensured the highest quality for all members. After a thorough review of all the available platforms the Geo-Institute decided to use Zoom for their webinars. While after work hours were always best for the in-person presentations, it was decided that the best time for virtual presentations was during the lunch hour. The mid-day presentations were chosen because they would add a nice break to everyone’s standard working from home day and allow our members to take a break from their computer screens and spend time with their families after work.

The virtual program year was kicked off in September with the University of Pittsburgh’s IRISE Landslide Seminar; this was a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute. The University of Pittsburgh hosted the platforms of these seminars.

On October 15, 2020, the ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter kicked off their Zoom webinar programs with Fatma Ciloglu, Ph.D., P.E., with Michael Baker International.  Dr. Ciloglu presented on Combi Piles-Lessons Learned to Manage Active Piping Erosion at Deep Foundations. This event was open to all members and non-members at no cost. A total of 144 professionals registered for this event, making it one of the largest events ever hosted by the ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter to date.

After the success of the first two virtual meetings the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute was pleased to host the 56th Terzaghi Lecture by Edward J. Cording on November 19, 2020. The Tergazhi lecture was titled Observing and Controlling Ground Behavior During Tunneling. This event was once again open to all members and non-members at no cost. This virtual presentation set another registration record for the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute attendance with 188 people registering for the event. 

On January 20, 2021, the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute was pleased to cohost the always popular annual joint meeting with AEG and PGS. Richard L. Beam, P.G. presented on Pennsylvania’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Emergency Program and drew in approximately 145 attendees across the three organizations.

While the start of the 2020/2021 program year looked bleak and uncertain, it has turned out some of the most well attended presentations of the ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter. The virtual presentations allow professionals from outside of just the Greater Pittsburgh Area to benefit from the educational presentations, including those from faraway states like California, Arizona, and Utah. The ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter thanks all their presenters and members for helping to make this year a successful program year. We look forward to the eventual restart of the popular in-person dinner meetings so that members can once again socialize and enjoy each other’s company, but until then please continue to join virtually from your home or wherever you may be!

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