VICKSBURG, Miss., — Scientists and engineers from across the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) participated in the organization’s Research and Development 2022 (RD22) workshop and symposium, April 26-28. The event was held at the Vicksburg, Mississippi, main campus and was broadcast virtually over eight time zones with more than 600 attendees.
With emphasis on fostering relationships and showcasing ERDC’s various innovative programs and projects, RD22 focused in on the newly published Top Ten U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Research and Development (R&D) Priorities, highlighting new avenues for ERDC-wide collaboration and synergy, as well as opportunities across the USACE, the Army, Department of Defense (DOD), other outside agencies and the international community.
In his welcome address, Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, 55th Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the USACE, said, “Our mission in the Army Corps of Engineers is to engineer solutions for our nation’s toughest challenges, and I’m here to tell you that we cannot do that without more — and better — research and development. And I think that’s what this gathering is all about.”
“That’s the benefit here,” he continued. “We want to prioritize the research and development —the science and data that we need to collect with all of your expertise — that’s going to better enable us to get after those solutions and deliver on our very important mission for this nation.”
Moving forward, R&D is going to be key for the USACE, and with two keynote addresses, three panel discussions and almost 300 presentations, RD22 was a major contributor.
“There’s never been a more exciting time to be in the Army Corps of Engineers and in R&D than right now,” said Dr. David Pittman, director of the ERDC and director of R&D and chief scientist for USACE. “Everything we do at the ERDC can be mapped into the top ten USACE R&D priorities.”
The goal of events like RD22 is to raise the profile and tell the story of R&D across the Corps of Engineers and eventually increase the program. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the breadth of world-class research taking place across the entire enterprise, connect with researchers from different branches and laboratories and find a path to new, more innovative research projects.
The theme for the year’s event was “Strategize! Collaboratively tackling our nation’s top R&D challenges,” with 19 presentations dedicated to effective teamwork, including a keynote address highlighting the current team-building efforts across the ERDC.
“This week is about collaboration,” said Pittman. “We get nothing done inside of ERDC without teams. Many of the challenges we face are huge and beyond ERDC. We have teammates across the Army and DOD, academia and internationally. It takes that effort of all of us collaborating to get it done.”
Throughout the conference, relationship building stretched far beyond science and discovery. Participants were encouraged to join several social events, either virtually or in-person, designed to promote networking and teambuilding. Researchers could cheer on their favorite laboratory director or deputy director in an ERDC leadership Jeopardy-like championship, sign-up to play chess with colleagues across the organization, clear their minds and relieve stress with laughter yoga, or take a ride through the Vicksburg National Military Park with ERDC’s own local historian.
“I hope everyone learned something new, met someone they didn’t know and took something back with them that will help make them better at what they do,” said Pittman. “It was a fantastic week.”