Sep 20, 2019

Geotechnical instrumentation short course targets young professionals

Tyler Morency
5 months ago

Engineers in training were the focus of geotechnical monitoring instrumentation education and training at RST Instruments

Over 50 engineering professionals attended RST Instruments Short Course on Geotechnical Instrumentation and Monitoring for Civil and Mining Projects at RST Instruments' headquarters located in Maple Ridge, BC from August 29–30, 2019. The two-day program included in-depth technical presentations, on-site installation demonstrations, and a production tour.

According to a post on the company's LinkedIn page, the course "was focused on providing a complete description of the various types of geotechnical instruments and data acquisition systems, their installation methods and their typical applications in civil engineering and mining projects."

The company's idea for hosting an instrumentation short course grew from smaller-scale courses delivered to specific clients that were well-received. Pierre Choquet, vice president of market development at RST Instruments, said they also recognized an opportunity to fill a need for professional development in the North American market. He explained that there has not been a short course focused on geotechnical monitoring instrumentation in North America since John Dunnicliff's annual International Course on Geotechnical and Structural Monitoring (IcGSM) moved to Italy from Florida nearly a decade ago.

"Education—truly—is important for understanding the instrument, the applications, the do's and don'ts for installation, and interpretation of data," Choquet said. He noted the presentations seek to provide answers to commonly asked questions that technical support receives.

Short course attendees saw installation demonstrations of instrumentation like manual inclinometers, piezometers, settlement plates, and Measurand's ShapeArray. Demonstrations of data loggers, sensors and data management software, as well as presentations from invited speakers and participants, were also part of the program.

Measurand's Shane Spinney and Robert Praeg demonstrate the installation of a SAAV ShapeArray.

RST Instruments offered a discount to attendees under the age of 35. As a result, Choquet estimated that at least 66% of the participants were under 35 years. He said it is important for that age group to have the opportunity to learn more about the monitoring technologies on the market.

"The reality is also that instrumentation is very often tasked to younger engineers in projects," Choquet said. "Of course, while it's reviewed by a senior (engineer), the details of developing the program, playing with all those data loggers, software, and preparing the specs are very often tasked to younger engineers."

Robert Praeg, a geotechnical instrumentation specialist at Measurand, was on-site to present a technical discussion and installation of ShapeArray. He noted that young engineers in the Vancouver region seem to have expanded roles and responsibilities.

"I found with this age group, they have a lot more influence and decision-making too. They seem to really be involved and be managing more projects than that age group out east," Praeg said.

Despite the responsibility of instrumentation strategy planning falling to young engineers, exposure to the wide variety of monitoring instruments and their applications may be limited.

One attendee, Intisar Farhan Ahmed, a geotechnical engineer (EIT) at Thurber, said in an email interview that he chose to attend the course because "it was a good opportunity to learn about available instrumentation solutions from experts in the field.”

"I had very little to no familiarity with geotechnical instrumentation. My knowledge was restricted to brief exposure during my undergraduate degree," Ahmed said. "After having taken the course, I can say that my knowledge has increased regarding available instruments and data acquisition systems."

Asked about what he plans to share with his colleagues, Ahmed said: "I found particularly interesting the application of ShapeArray in monitoring soil settlement. I also found software like GeoViewer and Trimble 4D to be interesting solutions in managing instrumentation data."

Choquet said plans are underway to make the short course an annual event.

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