RD18 promoted collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas

Published May 24, 2018
RD18 promoted collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas

Stephen Cosper, CERL, delivers the presentation “Feasibility Study of Food Waste Co-Digestion at U.S. Army Installations” on May 1, as part of the two-day conference, RD18.

RD18 promoted collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas

Dr. Maria Seale, ITL, presents to a packed house at the RD18 conference on May 1, when she discusses implementing a machine-learning software solution on high-performance computers.

VICKSBURG, Miss. (May 15, 2018) -- RD18 ‟Where researchers come to meet” was a thriving marketplace for ideas, innovation and new connections, drawing researchers and other U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center personnel out of their laboratories and offices and into the newly built headquarters building for two days, May 1-2, 2018.  

“RD18 is probably the greatest concentration of ideas in ERDC’s history,” Dr. Pittman, director of ERDC, said in his opening remarks. 

Pittman challenged every person attending the conference to meet five new people over the two days of RD18; he also described ERDC as a hotbed for technological innovation.

“ERDC is a Disneyworld for engineers and scientists,” he said. “Discovering, developing, and delivering new ways to make the world safer and better every day is what motivates us.” 

The event’s implementation was led by Dr. Beth Fleming, deputy director of ERDC, and conducted by the Emerging Leaders Group, with Lesley Miller and Dr. Jen Seiter-Moser leading the ELG’s planning efforts.

“The point of RD18 was to create new collaborations and networks within ERDC,” Miller said. “We wanted to build opportunities for new work and for providing more interdisciplinary solutions to our customers’ challenges; we have a wealth of knowledge here at ERDC — RD18 gave us the opportunity to tap into that.” 

The conference was divided into broad categories that were determined by a group comprised of approximately two ELG members from every laboratory. The categories included sensing, geoscience, material science, data analytics, infrastructure, and facilities/organizational capabilities; within those categories, there were 77 sessions and 337 presentations. 

“The order of the sessions and presentations was strategized very carefully; the sessions were cross-cutting because the whole point of RD18 was to talk to people outside of your normal daily interactions,” Miller said. 

Miller broke down the number of presenters from each laboratory: 46 from Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, 26 from the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, 17 from the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, 59 from the Environmental Laboratory, 7 from Geospatial Research Laboratory, 58 from Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, 48 from the Information Technology Laboratory, and 2 from Office of Research and Tech Transfer/ERDC Executive Office/Directorate of Enterprise Operations. 

Dr. Eli Deeb travelled from CRREL to deliver his presentation, “Snow Estimation Capabilities for Military and Civil Works Applications and Operations.” Deeb said the purpose of his presentation was to discuss our global snow estimation capabilities in the context of mission mobility planning support. 

“Approximately 20 people attended, mostly from GSL, CRREL, and EL,” Deeb said. “Collaboration opportunities exist with GSL and ITL with regard to the mobility modeling piece and logistics modelling, respectively.”

Mariely Mejias-Santiago, Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, delivered a presentation on the development of foam backfill technology for rapid airfield damage recovery. “We wanted to share the idea of what we’re doing with this expandable foam — fixing landing strips with this easy-to-transport, expandable material that weighs a lot less than dirt — and perhaps someone in the audience would see a new application for it,” Mejias-Santiago said.

“We had about 25 people in the audience, mostly GSL employees, but also EL employees attended.”

Miller said that breakout sessions provided a general overview on a topic and then an opportunity to discuss a focus topic. “Sometimes an outcome or a path to an outcome for a very specific issue was created as opposed to an individual presenting to an audience,” she said. 

Dr. Chris Massey, CHL, led a break-out session with about 20 people in attendance about ERDC’s Coastal Storm Modeling Systems and their applications. “We think it may have application for a lot of people at ERDC — districts already use it — but particularly for EL and GSL,” he said.

“RD18 was a great opportunity to help inform more of the ERDC population of a CHL-developed tool that can help with risk reduction as it relates to storm damage. The CSTORM-MS has already been applied to several large-scale Corps projects, such as the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study, which was completed in 2015.”

Dr. Kaytee Pokrzywinski, EL, facilitated a break-out session. “Dr. Jodi Ryder and I had 23 people attend our breakout session, ‘Engineering at the nexus of ecology and water quality: ERDC response to Harmful Algal Blooms and emerging water quality concerns,’ and almost all signed up to participate in our internal working group,” she said. “Most of the attendees were from EL, but there were also some CHL and ITL attendees.”

“We used RD18 to launch the internal working group HAB2O, which addresses harmful algal bloom and water quality issues, and we welcome any and all interested parties to this group.” 

Pokrzywinski thought RD18 provided an excellent platform for enhancing internal communication about some of the highly complex and multidisciplinary issues ERDC faces on a daily basis. “I think the event was hugely successful, particularly the breakout sessions, as these facilitated cross-cutting, innovative discussions about how to solve some of the toughest challenges we face at ERDC," she said.