Crisp spring weather and the sound of brass bands greeted guests to New Orleans as the city buzzed in anticipation of Mardi Gras throughout the Underground Construction Technology International Conference and Exhibition (UCT).
The conference drew a large and enthusiastic audience in its 23rd year, and attendees gave positive reviews to both the event and its Crescent City host.
“The offering was extensive, well-organized and well done. In some cases, I wish I could have been two places at once,” said Peter Merten of H.R. Green, St. Louis. “The venue (New Orleans) was a bonus!”
Scott Pestel of Holly Frontier Refining summarized the comments of many attendees simply, “Had a great time in the Big Easy.”
As the first major industry event of the year, UCT has built a devoted following by uniquely encompassing all underground construction and rehabilitation disciplines – both trenchless and traditional methods. It is the only annual industry event that brings together contractors, utility providers, consulting engineers, manufacturers and service providers into a business and educational environment for both trenchless and open-cut markets.
Unique educational programming
In addition to the large exhibition, the unique educational program which combines panel and interactive sessions, continues to be an industry benchmark for creative learning and information.
“The educational level is just right. This is not an academic or scholarly conference,” said Cleve Martin of Alan Plummer Associates, a repeat attendee who believes UCT’s focus on practical education is especially beneficial. Clarissa Shroeder of Auriga Polymers, was among the many UCT participants who ranked it highest in educational value of all industry conferences they attend.
Over 1,800 professionals attended more than 80 educational sessions covering every aspect of building, rehabilitating and maintaining underground infrastructure during the three-day conference, Jan. 30 – Feb. 1. Divided into 12 tracks ranging from HDD operations and productivity to laterals rehabilitation, the sessions offered attendees a broad selection of tutorials, interactive presentations, panel discussions and in-depth case histories.
“The tracks are very well-structured. I didn’t waste any time sitting through a seminar I wasn’t interested in,” said Karen Warren, Oakland County Water Resources commissioner, Waterford, Mich.
In addition, eight special pre-show programs made up a full week of educational offerings, including opportunities to earn professional development hours (PDHs) and continuing education units (CEUs) through the University of Texas at Arlington’s Center for Underground Infrastructure Research and Education.
RehabZone tests skills, emphasizes safety
A perennial favorite at UCT since its launch in 2002, the RehabZone is an interactive learning experience within the Exhibit Hall, focused on trenchless rehabilitation, including innovative technologies, installation techniques, live demonstrations and opportunities for hands-on technology test-drives.
The RehabZone is co-sponsored by the National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO) and Underground Construction magazine in cooperation with the Utility Engineering & Surveying Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Water Environment Federation’s Collection System Committee. Educational stations included the NASSCO Pipeline Assessment Certification Program and Inspector Training Certification Program; sectional CIPP, water main, lateral and manhole lining; joint and seal repairs, and others staffed by industry professionals, who presented objective information without sales or promotion.
New additions for 2018 included the safety section and the Cutter Challenge – a test of skills using the TryTek T150 Lateral Reinstatement cutter. Two machines were set up for operation in a designated section of the RehabZone – one providing an opportunity to learn and practice the controls, and another for a competition among attendees.
Adding to its educational value this year, Jack Doheny Companies brought essential permit-required, confined space training to the RehabZone with its mobile “classroom.” The fully operational training truck was stationed within the ’Zone, allowing attendees to use all of its features – including being strapped into a harness and lowered into a simulated manhole.
“We think it is fantastic to have this vehicle as part of the ’Zone,” said RehabZone Chairman Andy Rothenberg, president of Primeline Products. Noting the constant risks of every job site, Rothenberg added, “We felt that it was very important and appropriate to further emphasize safety within the RehabZone.”
Training sessions were conducted by longtime certified trainer Ed Fitzgerald of Doheny. Experts were on hand to answer any questions about the truck, OSHA requirements and other safety aspects of underground infrastructure operations.
The 2018 RehabZone also featured the return of a popular sewer history exhibit featuring a museum-quality display that chronicles development over a period of more than 200 years, from early wooden and ceramic pipe, to the modern infrastructure of today.
Among the highlights of every UCT is viewing the industry’s latest products and services, and learning about their benefits directly from the companies that offer them. Between the unique educational format and the large exhibition, UCT provided information that attendees could bring home and immediately apply to their work environment.
A significant increase in booths and overall exhibitor participation meant there were even more opportunities available for attendees this year at New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
“All of the booths were great,” said first-time attendee Steve Freeman of Fleming Construction, Kenner, La. “The folks at the booths represented their companies well. Everyone was knowledgeable of their product.”
Diamond Sponsor for UCT 2018 was SippTech. Additional major sponsors included TT Technologies, Miller Pipeline, Herrenknecht and JT Miller.
“We are excited about the growth that UCT experienced this year and by the positive feedback we have received from conference attendees and sponsors alike,” said Karen Francis, UCT’s director. “Our ultimate goal is to contribute to the success of our industry by delivering value at every level of participation in UCT. We are grateful to everyone who contributed to our 2018 conference and have already started working to build on this success in 2019.”
UCT will return to the Fort Worth Convention Center (the UCT 2017 venue) Jan. 29 -31, 2019. For more information, visit uctonline.com or contact Karen Francis (713) 520-4450, firstname.lastname@example.org.