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Posted 4/20/2017

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By Gwyn G. Neill
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs


As the seasons change and the month of March blows in, most people think about spring break, daylight saving time and college basketball’s March Madness. The talk at water coolers everywhere is about basketball brackets, the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight and the Final Four. But, talk around the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and in the Office of Research and Technology Transfer centers around ERDC University’s “Terrific Twelve.” At ERDC, March also brings in the 2017 class of ERDC University and this year the district participants could easily be known throughout USACE as the “Terrific Twelve.” 

The ORTT’s John George who helped welcome the group to ERDC with tours of the city and campus said, “It was an amazing experience to meet and converse with the 12 participants from the 10 districts in the initial days of the ERDC University program. The diversity in their areas of expertise is a reminder of the variety of issues they are addressing within the USACE Mission.” 
Currently in its second year, the ERDC University program is growing and is sponsored by the Directorate of Human Capital and the ORTT. ERDC University is a professional development opportunity for district selectees to partner and collaborate with ERDC researchers on applying and implementing technical solutions to current and potential problems within their home districts. 

“To see their excitement in having the opportunity to actually work with our technical experts for an extended period is a testament to the importance of this program in increasing their knowledge base, and in improving areas of communication and technology transfer between the ERDC and the districts,” George added.

In preparing and planning for each year’s class, most of the planning and preparation falls primarily on the ORTT which is tasked with managing the program. Under the direction of Antisa Webb, ORTT chief of Technology Advancement, her team works to match ERDC subject-matter experts with district selectees to partner and collaborate on applying and implementing technical solutions for use throughout USACE and, ultimately, in their home districts. 

Webb explained, “ERDC University is a new program that offers the opportunity for USACE (ERDC and field) to partner on improving, applying and implementing technical solutions. It provides transition technology between ERDC and USACE’s divisions, districts and centers in order to grow a collaborative environment while in the context of a career-developmental opportunity within USACE. The goal is for the participant to learn a new model, technique, technology or method that would benefit their present or future work experience.”   

For fiscal year 2018, the announcement will go out in early May with a deadline of Sept. 30. The program is looking for as many as 20 participants. It takes about a month to review applications before a recommended list is submitted to ERDC leadership for final approval and selection. It then takes one to two months to find research partners depending on the number of candidates and the research topics. The logistics and funding work follows so that the ORTT can ensure the program begins in March.  

ERDC University is open to U.S. citizens only who are full-time USACE employees. Lasting a maximum of six months, the cost is shared by ERDC and the participant’s home district. An individual with an interest and experience in general scientific and engineering fields in the business areas of civil works and water resources, environmental quality and installations, geospatial research and engineering, information technology and military engineering is the typical ERDC U student. 

This year ERDC University’s “Terrific Twelve” represent 10 USACE districts and were matched with research partners in multiple laboratories. The 2017 class roster is as follows:

Buffalo District

  • Andrew Lenox, environmental engineer matched with Dr. Paul Schroeder in the Environmental Laboratory to execute dredged sediment evaluations and research efforts to address compliance of dredged sediment discharges.

Charleston District

  • Jennifer Kist, survey technician matched with Thad Pratt in the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory to collect multibeam data to create seafloor maps for a multitude of purposes including using this data to create maps for navigation and to compute pre-dredge and post-dredge quantities of materials for payment to dredge contractors.
  • Krystle Miner, geographer matched with Dr. Rob Fischer and Ryan Kirkpatrick at the Geospatial Research Laboratory to collect, process and analyze geospatial data with specific emphasis on the extraction of biophysical information for civilian and tactical applications.

Chicago District

  • Nicholas Barkowski, fish biologist matched with Dr. Christa Woodley in the Environmental Laboratory to investigate the potential use of feeding sounds as an attractant for Asian Carp and integration of measured movements into spatial domain.

Fort Worth District

  • Tobi Cox, civil engineer matched with Lance Marrano at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory to provide access to and participate in ongoing and new BUILDER™ and ROOFER projects being led by the Sustainment Management System and will participate in customer communication, project planning, portfolio analysis and data analysis.

Huntington District

  • Nicholas Koutsunis, civil engineer matched with Allen Hammack and Tim Shelton in the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory to learn the techniques required to run three-dimensional, Reynolds averaged Navier Stokes simulations. These techniques will be applied to an analysis of the flows downstream of the Bluestone Dam outlet structures.

Jacksonville District

  • Nicole Fresard, biologist matched with Damarys Acevedo and Elizabeth Murray in the Environmental Laboratory to support multiple tasks associated with restoring and sustaining ecological function in coastal marshes affected by sea level rise.
  • David Lattuca, invasive species manager matched with Nathan Harms in the Environmental Laboratory to develop invasive plant management cost data sets and conduct experiments related to invasive species ecology.

New England

  • Stephen Potts, geologist matched with Joe Dunbar in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory to use electrical and electromagnetic geophysical methods to characterize the surficial geology of an abutment at North Springfield Dam which is a New England District embankment dam located in North Springfield, Vermont. This work will lead to future geophysical studies in the New England District and North Atlantic Division.

Savannah District

  • Sarah Spatzer, regulatory specialist matched with Joe Durkee in the Office of Research and Technology Transfer to accomplish a side-by-side comparison of Mobile Information Collection Application 3 and ESRI collector and report the findings while conducting additional research to determine the best approach for data post processing and incorporation into Reachback Engineer Data Integration.

Tulsa District

  • Jeff Roberts, structural engineer matched with Edgardo Ruiz in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory and Matthew Smith in the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory to evaluate failure modes of multi-girder bridges to identify specific structural parameters that affect structural reliability and identify potential objective measurements that could be collected by field inspections.

Vicksburg District

  • Joseph Minter, natural resources specialist matched with Rich Fischer and Erick Britzke in the Environmental Laboratory to investigate a large database of imagery collected from wildlife trail cameras at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He will assist with imagery classification and analyze imagery for wildlife hesitancy and successful passage rates through wildlife culvert crossings.

For ERDC team members interested in more information and possibly serving as a research partner in the future, contact Antisa Webb, Antisa.C.Webb@usace.army.mil or via phone (601) 634-4259.

ERDC ERDC U ERDC Univeristy USACE