Wednesday, December 21, 2016

CEES Hosts Inaugural PDH Workshop and Alumni Reception

CEES hosted our inaugural PDH workshop and alumni reception on Friday, October 14.  The event is the brainchild of our CEES Visiting Council and is meant to provide a venue for CEES alumni and friends to connect in both a professional and social setting.  The 90 minute workshop entitled “Important Aspects of Chemical Stabilization for Fine Grained Soils” was conducted by CEES professors Amy Cerato and Jerry Miller.  The complimentary reception was held on the 5th floor terrace of Devon Energy Hall and was sponsored by Cabbiness Engineering, Garver, Olsson Associates and Poe & Associates.

We hope to make the workshop and reception an annual event so please keep an eye out for details about next fall’s schedule.  We will send announcements to professional society list serves, our alumni e-mail data base and through LinkedIn, so please keep us up-to-date on your e-mail address should it change.  We invite you to recruit, engage and support our students, so please stay connected.  If you are not already a member of the CEES LinkedIn Group, here is the link for the University of Oklahoma CEES Alumni and Friends so join today!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ron Conlon Retires

Many of you will fondly remember CEES staff member Ron Conlon as a long standing member of the CEES family.

Ron's career at OU began in the department of geology in 1998 before joining CEES in 2000.  He has been responsible for upkeep, repairing, purchasing and decommissioning assets of the school and has played a major role in the re-allocation and fitment of offices and laboratories as well as all safety related issues in the school.  Of his time here, Ron observes that “I have been very fortunate and proud to be able to be a part of the education of hundreds of university students. It takes special skills to have a career as a support staff member in the multi-facetted and challenging environment of academia where few tasks are repeated and no week is quite like the last.”  Ron is looking forward to new adventures in his homeland of Canada when he retires this month. 

Said director Randy Kolar, “We are fortunate to have staff members of the caliber of Ron as members of the CEES family.  The depth of experience and expertise will be sorely missed going forward.  We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

CEES Launches Student Excellence Fund

This fund will provide a means for the CEES director to offer discretionary support to CEES students or student organizations that are striving for excellence and enriched academic experiences.  Funds may be allocated on a discretionary basis for student enrichment or experiential learning opportunities.  Examples include, but are not limited to, support for:

·         student travel/participation in technical, academic or professional conferences;
·         student expenses to present research;
·         students and/or teams participating in design/build competitions;
·         students in teaching, research, exchanges, or international experiences;
·         student awards and recognition events.

Please consider making a gift this season to help support this exciting initiative!

Friday, December 16, 2016

2016 Quick Updates

Old bridge (Lincoln County)
New bridge (Lincoln County)
Associate professor Kianoosh Hatami is working with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to repair and replace deficient bridges on county roads across Oklahoma with a novel system called Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil Integrated Bridge Systems . GRS-IBS has been promoted for use across the U.S. by the Federal Highway Administration, as part of their Every Day Counts initiative over the past decade.

Faculty and students in CEES worked with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and industry partners to revise ODOT’s post-earthquake bridge inspection protocol, increasing preparedness, saving money and time, and better allocating state resources. 

Associate professor Chris Ramseyer authored Appendix Y, “Tornado Provisions for Residential Structures,” of the OUBCC adoption of the 2015 International Residential Code that was signed by Governor Mary Fallon 2016.  This is the first residential building code to address tornadoes in the United States.

Assistant professor Scott Harvey, together with 20 other US researchers, attended a conference and workshop in New Zealand as part of the NSF-sponsored Pacific Rim Earthquake Engineering Mitigation Protective Technologies International Virtual Environment  project.  The PREEMPTIVE project aims to promote and accelerate the adoption of seismic protective systems for building response reduction to provide for resilient and sustainable societies.

 Harvey also attended an NSF-sponsored workshop at Lehigh University in December. The workshop showcased the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure Lehigh Experimental Facility. This state-of-the-art facility is capable of conducting full-scale hybrid tests to simulate the effects of natural hazards on the civil infrastructure.  Harvey intends to utilize this facility in his future research.

Professor Robert Nairn completed a second passive treatment system for mine drainage associated with the specific discharges at the Tar Creek Superfund Site near Commerce OK.  Click here to see a short film in which Nairn explains the importance of cooperation and collaboration at the site.

The OU WaTER Center entered the 10th year of its biennial symposium/conference cycle in 2016 with the selection of its 5th OU International Water Prize recipient, Mr. Eric Stowe.  Stowe is the founder and director of Splash, an organization that is delivering clean drinking water to orphanages all across China.  The announcement of Stowe’s selection was made at the 5th OU WaTER Symposium which brought five international jurors together to select the prize recipient and discuss pressing water and sanitation issues.  Stowe will receive the prize at the 2017 OU International WaTER Conference and International Water Prize Award Ceremony, Sept. 18-20, 2017.  Click here for conference updates.

An annual interdisciplinary service-learning course, co-sponsored by the College of International Studies and the OU WaTER Center, began in June 2016 with 19 students and 5 faculty spending a month studying clean water challenges faced by students and nearby villagers at Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe's orphanage and tailoring school in Uganda, Africa.

 Professor Musharraf Zaman leads the Southern Plains Transportation Center, a Regional University Transportation Center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, whose focus is on climate adaptive transportation.  The Center made significant contributions toward educating tomorrow’s transportation leaders and finding solutions to pressing regional issues, including the following: provided funding for more than 40 research projects; sponsored more than 100 internships for engineering students; created the Transportation Leadership Council at each of the eight consortium universities that helps transition colleges students to transportation careers and leadership; helped organize the Tribal Transportation Safety Champion Workshop; and sponsored the second Transportation Climate Summit on the OU campus.

CEES Professor is Co-recipient of the Civil Society Innovation Award

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Futures Conference was held in Brisbane, Australia, in May of this year.  The international conference brought together global leaders in WASH programming and research and showcased innovations in the field in an attempt to pave the path to universal and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene. At this year’s conference, a joint project designed and implemented by CEES assistant professor Robert Dreibelbis, Save the Children and the University of Buffalo was awarded first place with the Civil Society Innovation Award. The award aims to acknowledge the work of civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations that have developed successful and innovative strategies for improving the sustainability and delivery of WASH services.

In an effort to reduce the risk of enteric and respiratory disease and positively impact child morbidity and mortality in rural Bangladesh, the first place project focused on improving handwashing behaviors after toilet use among primary school-aged children. The traditional focus of handwashing interventions has been behavior change communication and hygiene promotion, though these methods are often time and labor intensive and don’t consistently result in measurable improvements. In an attempt to overcome the challenges of handwashing behavior change, principal investigator Dreibelbis and his partners designed the low-cost and easy to implement nudge path intervention. “Nudges”, or environmental cues that spark quick, unconscious decision-making, have gained attention in recent years as a means to trigger behavioral outcomes in high-income countries. Rather than attempting to tap into the reflective and often complex decision-making process of school-aged children, the aim of the nudge path intervention was to alter the physical environment surrounding

handwashing in order to subconsciously promote the behavior in the focus schools. The nudge paths created in this project connect latrines to handwashing stations via paved pathways. Pathways are painted with bright colors, footprints and handprints, intended to trigger handwashing through visual cues, while the pathways themselves subtly guide students to the handwashing location. The feasibility for the nudge path intervention was assessed in a pilot in 2014 of nudges in two schools in rural Bangladesh, showing an overall increase of 64% in handwashing among primary school students after a toileting event. The nudge path concept is currently under further study in a cluster-randomized trial to assess the longer term sustainability of the intervention as well as the behavioral impact of nudges against a traditional education-focused handwashing and hygiene promotion program.  

In an effort to improve WASH in primary schools, recent policy changes in Bangladesh are requiring primary schools to adopt new sanitation infrastructure, referred to as WASH Blocks. The WASH Block design incorporates handwashing facilities within the toileting facility structure, with separate toileting and handwashing facilities for boys and girls. In order to further investigate the potential effect of nudges on handwashing in primary schools while addressing relevant policy issues, the first place prize of $10,000 USD from the Civil Society Innovation Award will be used to investigate the applicability of the nudge design in the WASH Block setting.