Staff Changes, New Initiatives Highlight Busy Year for TTC

The Trenchless Technology Center (TTC) at Louisiana Tech University has had a very active year, as it continued to meet its mission to advance trenchless technology by serving as an independent source of knowledge, research and education in the field.

Several staff changes this year will allow TTC to meet its current needs and expand and grow its research and development offerings.

Shaurav Alam, Ph.D.,  assistant professor of civil engineering and construction engineering technology at Louisiana Tech, was appointed associate director of Research. Alam has been a key research leader at TTC for several years, and this appointment reflects his success and contributions to the TTC.

Amin Azimi, Ph.D., joined TTC as a research scientist. A former senior lecturer of civil engineering in the Department of Structures and Materials at the University Technology of Malaysia (UTM), he received his Ph.D. in structural engineering there in 2014. His experience includes working with several organizations in the public and private sectors for nearly three years, as well as work with structures and earthquake engineering, and consulting and construction. Azimi has received several national and international awards for his innovative engineering inventions.

Omar Abdulkareem, Ph.D., joined TTC as a research associate. Obtaining both his master’s(2010) and doctorate (2014) degrees in materials engineering from the University of Malaysia (Perlis, Malaysia), he served as a graduate assistant at the Center of Excellence Geopolymer and Green Concrete Technology. He also worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Housing, Building, and Planning of the University Sains Malaysia (USM), Malaysia, and after that was appointed as an assistant professor and director of the concrete laboratory at the Esra’a University College, Iraq.

Research and development

This year, TTC has seen large growth in both the number and overall value of research contracts, as well as internally funded explorations into new areas. Most of the TTC research continues to be funded by industry and is, therefore, subject to various types of non-disclosure agreements, limiting the amount of research the center is able to publish. Despite this fact, TTC and its researchers had a banner year in terms of the number of peer-reviewed publications produced, which is an important metric for research centers and faculty members.

Research focused on three key areas related to the trenchless industry: innovations in pipeline renewal, sensor development, and water infrastructure management. Multiple projects were completed and are still ongoing related to innovative materials and processes for pipe rehabilitation, namely for pressure pipes and sewer laterals. These projects cover a variety of areas, such as new test standard development, third-party lab and field evaluation, and long-term material testing and monitoring.
Cutting-edge research continues in the development of new sensors and systems for the location and inspection of utility systems. Various infrastructure management projects have focused on topics ranging from valve inspection and operation, to ductile iron pipe assessment and management, to updating the NUCA Trenchless Construction and Rehabilitation Methods manual.

TTC and its Industry Advisory Board (IAB) are pleased with the amount of research currently being undertaken at the TTC and look forward to future growth. For more information on current research, or to initiate research with the TTC, please contact the associate director of research (Alam) at shaurav@latech.edu, or the director, John Matthews, Ph.D., at matthews@latech.edu.

Industry advisory board

One of the greatest strengths of TTC is its very active Industry Advisory Board (IAB). A unique feature of an academic research center, IAB helps keep the center focused on industry issues, rather than only academic exercises. TTC relies on guidance and support from the IAB, which are key to successful operation of TTC’s mission. This year, TTC increased overall membership in the IAB to 47 members. (See sidebar for list of member organizations.) are listed below by category. For more information on each IAB member organization and representative, please visit www.ttc.latech.edu/membership/members.php.Bruce Jameson, regional manager for Ace Pipe Cleaning in Fort Worth, Texas, continues to serve as IAB chairman and Ali Mustapha, P.E., executive director for the Caddo Level District in Shreveport, La, continues as vice chair. The IAB is planning to meet at the upcoming ASCE Pipelines Conference in Toronto. If you are interested in learning more about or joining the IAB, please contact TTC director (Matthews) at matthews@latech.edu.

Municipal forums

The TTC Municipal Forum Program held five forums in the fall of 2017 and five in the spring of 2018, with total attendance of approximately 500 attendees and featuring more than 60 presentations from industry leaders. These one-day events offer low-cost participation (starting at $55 for municipal participants) and the opportunity to earn continuing education (CEUs) units.TTC thanks the sponsors and speakers for all the 2017-2018 forums: Ace Pipe Cleaning, Aegion, Akkerman, American West Construction, AOC Resins, Carollo, Aurora (Colo.), Boston, Portland (Ore.), Shreveport (La.), Envirologics, Interplastic Corporation, IPEX, IPR, Jacobs, Jaydee, JEA, Kleinfelder, LMK Technologies, Logan Clay, Long Beach Water, Milliken, MTC, Murraysmith, New York City DEP, PipeMedic, Raven, Reline America, SAK, SAW, SippTech, Stantec and Thompson Pipe.TTC plans to explore possible new locations, so if a city is interested in hosting a forum, having specific topics included in program, or would like to present at any of the forums, please contact the  director (Matthews). Municipal Forum in Vancouver, WA, was attended by more than 100 people.

Specialty schools & courses

Two years ago, TTC began developing specialty schools. The first was focused on auger boring, with the second, five-day Auger Boring School (ABS) held at Louisiana Tech University, in partnership with NUCA. The course covers all aspects of auger boring projects, from design to construction, with special focus on safety. The format consists of classroom lectures and practical sessions, which are held at the field testing site located behind the TTC National Trenchless Technology Research Facility at South Campus. The third ABS is scheduled for Nov. 12-16, 2018.

The second specialty school, utility investigations, recognizes the importance of accurately locating and depicting existing underground utilities to ensure successful construction projects. It has been reported that at least 70 percent of projects experience delays and budget overruns due to utility conflicts. TTC has responded to this crisis by partnering with ASCE UESI and NUCA to offer the second, five-day Utility Investigation School (UIS) in 2018. IDS GeoRadar North America was the platinum sponsor. A third school is planned for 2019.

TTC also continues to provide administrative support to the Buried Asset Management Institute-International (BAMI-I), primarily focused on the Certification of Training for Asset Management (CTAM). While representatives from 15 countries have enrolled in this online educational and certification program, the four-day classroom option is becoming very popular. The next classroom program will be sponsored by the Underground Technology Association North Texas Chapter, Nov. 5-8. Providing a substantial cost savings over the online program,  the classroom option allows attendees to complete all four courses and becomes AWAM (Associate Water Asset Managers) certified.

Growth initiatives

TTC has embarked on a global call-to-action for the trenchless technology industry to help meet the growing underground infrastructure needs. As national and international cost estimates continue to greatly exceed available funding, we must seek and embrace a paradigm shift. The TTC’s new Total Solution for Meeting Our Underground Infrastructure Challenges offers leaders in every segment of the industry to join together to do that, through the following three initiatives.  Louisiana Tech University has made a commitment to expand the physical space dedicated to TTC and form an Underground Infrastructure Campus (UIC) on the South Campus, where the National Trenchless Facility is currently located.The next structure to be built will be the Barbera Underground Infrastructure Research & Training (BUIRT) Facility. Its first use will be for the November ABS. BUIRT’s opening will be celebrated on Nov. 15, with an inauguration banquet and presentation of the first TTC Life-Time achievement awards to Leo and Jim Barbera. BUIRT will also be designed for use by UIS in February 2019.Finally, a Living Lab (LL) program with the city of Ruston’s Department of Public Works is being developed to validate the long-term performance of technical solutions under real-world conditions. TTC Associate Director of International Operations, Tom Iseley, Ph.D., is forming a coalition of industry leaders to accomplish these initiatives, and drive underground infrastructure to the table of discussions with policy makers and political decision makers. In most national discussions on infrastructure, roads and bridges are front and center, while underground piping networks for the transportation of water, wastewater, oil and gas remain out-of-site and out-of-mind. Industry leaders can change this, but it requires commitment and resources. Iseley will be serving as the fund-raising committee chair to not only secure the money, but bring permanent recognition to those who realize that if we don’t provide leadership, we will be standing by wondering what happened. Please contact Iseley at dtiseley@latech.edu, if you are one of these leaders.

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