Category: Seminars

Frank Townsend: Panama Canal- Construction and Expansion

Frank C. Townsend, PhD., P.E., a 1962 graduate of Michigan Tech, delivered a Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar entitled “Panama Canal: Construction and Expansion” on September 26, 2013, on Dow 641.

View the seminar on the Civil & Environmental Engineering Channel on Vimeo

Abstract: This talk presents engineering aspects of the construction and current expansion of the Panama Canal. The Canal was constructed during 1904 to 1914, and has been designated one of ASCE’s “Seven Wonders of the Modern World”. The triumph over engineering obstacles, disease, landslides, floods, and politics represents a hallmark of perseverance and civil engineering skills. The construction involved 262 m yds3 of soil excavation, and 4.5m yds3 of concrete for the locks and dams at cost of $639m , which was under-budget.

The Panama Canal Authority is currently constructing a $5.25 billion canal expansion project to increase capacity and future shipping demands. The expansion involves the construction of two new sets of locks and 39.2m yd3 of dry excavation. Completion is scheduled for 2015.

Frank C. Townsend, PhD., P.E., Frank Townsend was born and raised in the Panama Canal Zone, and had never seen a snowfall until he arrived at Michigan Tech in the fall of 1958. At Michigan Tech, he was active in the Army ROTC, a Distinguished Military Graduate, 4 year varsity rifle team letterman, member of Chi Epsilon, and was named to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. He received his baccalaureate degree in civil engineering in 1962 from Michigan Tech and PhD from Oklahoma State University (1970). He worked as a Research Civil Engineer at the Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS. He was Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Florida, for 26 years until his retirement in 2005. His service activities include ASCE and ASTM national committees, Tau Beta Pi, and teaching short courses throughout the USA and Latin America.

In 1996, he was inducted into the MTU ACADEMY of Civil & Environmental Engineers.

Dr. Townsend’s father, Wesley Hall Townsend, received a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan Tech in 1931. Dr. Townsend and his wife, Marvel, have two children, 2 grandsons, and reside in Gainesville, Florida.

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar: Large Scale Landslides

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar, Thursday,September 19, 4:00 pm, Room 641 Dow
Glacial Lake Ontonagon and the Development of Large Scale Landslides
Vitton, Stanley J., Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, 49931

A massive landslide occurred in 2005 along the East Branch of the Ontonagon River in northern Michigan adjacent to US-45. The landslide initially blocked the river causing it to redevelop a new flow channel. While other massive landslides occur along this section of the river, they tend to be infrequent with respect to the general form of mass wasting such as slope regression due to river under cutting and surface erosion. An investigation of the landslide indicated two very distinct soil units that appear to correspond to the two phases of glacial Lake Ontonagon. The two soil units have a relatively distinct boundary as seen in Figure 1C. The lower unit consists of a red till, which forms the floor of the valley, grading upward into alluvial sand, while the upper unit is a distinct lacustrine soil deposit.

The massive landslide failure zone developed in the lower soil unit. It is unclear at this point as to whether the failure was due to softening of the lower red till or liquefaction induced failure caused by increased pore pressure development during the spring runoff in the alluvial sand. Due to the extensive development of soil liquefaction features, however, it is believed that failure was induced via liquefaction in the transitional zone between the red till and the clean sand in the lower soil unit where the percent of fines in the sand prevent adequate drainage. Additional analysis of the soil’s strength and dynamic properties are needed, however, to make a more definitive determination (Smith, 2012).

The origins of glacial Lake Ontonagon was first addressed by Leverette (1929) and later by Hack (1965), Farrand and Drexler (1985) and Attig, Clayton and Mickelson (1985). The formation of Lake Ontonagon soils are believed to have developed in the post-Twocreekan time, around 11,800 Before Present (BP). The post-Twocreekan glacier advance completely filled the Lake Superior basin with two ice lobes that were split by the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Superior lobe reached the position of the Nickerson moraine southwest of Duluth, while the Lake Michigan-Green Bay lobe moved southward across the northern peninsula of Michigan, ultimately reaching the Two Rivers moraine at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, about 11,800 BP. Following the Two Creek advance, de-glaciation formed lakes and drainage channels in front of the glacier lobes in which glacial lakes Duluth and Ontonagon formed. Lake Ontonagon drained westward into Lake Ashland and eventually to the St. Croix River, which drained southward to the Mississippi River at about 11,000 BP. Between 11,000 and 10,700 BP the glacier retreated into the Lake Superior Basin forming a much larger Lake Duluth and eventually as the ice retreated and the glacial rebound occurred lowering Lake Duluth to form Lake Algonquin. It is believed that the lower soil unit formed during this period of time.

At about 10,000 BP, however, the last glacial re-advance, known as the Marquette Phase, advanced back into the Lake Superior Basin covering most of the northern portion of the Upper Peninsula. At about 9,900 BP the ice retreated again forming a series of lakes along the front of the ice sheet. Lake Ontonagon reformed at this time along with Lake’s Ashland and Nemadjic. Eventually the lakes became confluent and drained westward to the St. Croix outlet. At that time the lake levels for Ashland and Nemadjic dropped about 20 feet. Lake Ontonagon, on the other hand, dropped about 200 feet, (Leverett, 1929) leaving much of its lake bed dry land surface. It is believed that the upper lacustrine soil unit formed during this period of time.

Attig, W.J., Clayton, L. and D.M. Mickelson, 1985. Correlation of late Wisconsin glacial phases in the western Great Lakes area, Geological Society of America Bulletin vol. 96, no. 12; pp 1585-1593.
Farrand, W.R. and Drexler, C.W. 1985. Late Wisconsin and Holocene History of the Lake Superior Basin, Quaternary Evolution of the Great Lakes, P.F Karrow and P.E. Calkin, editors, Geological Assoc. of Canada Special Paper 30.
Hack , John, 1965. Postglacial drainage evolution and stream geometry in the Ontonagon area, Michigan, Geological Survey Professional Paper 504-B, Washington, D.C., 45 p.
Leverett, Frank, 1929. Moraines and shorelines of the Lake Superior basin: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 154-A, 72 p.
Smith, J. 2012. Large Scale Landslide on the Ontonagon River, Michigan, Masters of Science Report, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, 17 p.

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar: Porous Materials

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar, Thursday, September 12, 2013, Room 641 Dow
4pm to 5pm
Speaker: Dr. Zhen Liu, assistant professor of civil engineering, MTU

Title of Presentation: “Modeling the Multiphysical Phenomena in Porous Materials”

Porous materials (geomaterials, cementitious materials, etc.) are among the most abundant engineering materials that serve different disciplines. A thorough understanding of their behaviors is challenged by their susceptibilities to multiphysical processes as the result of their porous nature. Further advancements in porous materials research call for holistic multiphysics models and innovative characterization techniques. This study
investigated the multiphysical phenomena in three different types of porous materials (i.e., soil freezing, cement hydration, and dissociation of methane hydrate) based on their common features. Theoretical frameworks were first developed to couple the thermal, hydraulic and mechanical fields. Thermo-hydro-mechanical models were implemented using the finite element method. The simulation results cast light on engineering applications such as the safety and sustainability of pavement and buried pipes, the hydrating mechanisms of cement-based materials, and the recovery of gas hydrates. On the other hand, new instrumentation techniques were developed and utilized to characterize porous materials. These include a thermo-TDR sensor for the measurement of soil water characteristic curves, a modified capillary rise method for measuring apparent contact angles of soils, and an ultrasonic wave sensor-based method for measuring the pore-size distributions in concrete.

Environmental Engineering Seminar: Acid and Metal-contaminated Lakes

Environmental Engineering Seminar: 9/9/2013; Monday, 3-4 pm, Great Lakes Research Center 2013;

Norman Yan, FRSC, Department of Biology, York University, Toronto Canada,

“Regulators of recovery of acid and metal-contaminated lakes in Sudbury, Canada

I employ 35 years of data from 4 urban lakes in Sudbury, Canada, to explore whether the ecological recovery of lakes from massive historical acid and Cu and Ni contamination is controlled more by regional or local processes, i.e. by colonist arrival or by colonist establishment success and growth. Average zooplankton species richness has tripled in the lakes, a very promising trend, although it has not quite reached recovery targets. Somewhat surprisingly, average species richness increased more rapidly in the two more heavily metal-contaminated lakes, Middle and Hannah Lakes, than in the less heavily contaminated Clearwater and Lohi lakes. An examination of species accumulation curves suggests that Middle and Hannah lakes have not received more colonists, indicating that recovery is not controlled by this regional process: however, within-year persistence of these colonists is much higher in Middle and Hannah lakes than in Clearwater and Lohi lakes, suggesting a local, lake-scale process is regulating recovery. The more rapid recovery in Middle and Hannah lakes is consistent with the long-term trend of metal “toxic units” in the lakes, i.e. with the sum of the ratios of Cu, Ni and Zn LC50’s calculated with the Biotic Ligand Model, divided by metal levels in the lakes. This suggests that metal toxicity is the key factor regulating colonist establishment. Since 2007 we have been assessing the toxicity of Clearwater Lake in lab bioassays, and these results are consistent with the modelling results. After 8 decades of metal damage in Sudbury’s urban lakes, we are approaching a time when metal toxicity will no longer be the main determinant of zooplankton community composition. This will indeed be a welcome day, given that these lakes were among the most severely contaminated of Ontario’s quarter million lakes.
Co-sponsors: Biological Sciences, the Center for Water & Society, and the Great Lakes Research Center

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar: Thursday, April 18, 2013, bRoom 642 Dow Bldg., 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Mr. Aboelkasim Diab Ahmed Ali, a civil engineer from Egypt who is studying toward a PhD at Michigan Tech, will discuss the results of two projects that he has recently completed. They are as follows:
1) A Mathematical Approach Bridging Resilient Moduli to Dynamic Moduli for the Mechanistic Empirical Design of Asphalt Pavements, and
2) Rheology Evaluation of Unaged Foam-based Warm Mix Asphalt Modified with Nano Hydrated Lime.

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar: Aaron Mazeika

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar, Thursday, April 4, 4:00 – 5:00 pm, Room 642 Dow

Speaker: Aaron Mazeika, PE, SE, AIA, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Topic: Design / Construction of a 413 meter highrise building at Kuwait City Sculpted High-Rise – The Al Hamra Tower

Abstract: With a roof height of 413m, the Al Hamra Tower in Kuwait City is amongst the tallest buildings in the world. Setting it apart from other super high-rise buildings is its unique sculpted form. An example of architectural expression through structural form on a grand scale, the structural system and exterior form were developed in a symbiotic digital design process. The building geometry is generated by a spiraling slice subtracted from a simple prismatic volume. The resultant spiraling building form generates a dramatic cantilevered office wing that wraps around an exterior coutyard. The two resultant cut surfaces are hyperbolic paraboloid reinforced-concrete walls, which extend the full height of the tower and participate in the lateral and gravity force resisting systems. Other noteable features include a Nervi inspired lamella structure bracing the tower columns which curve 24m throught the lobby space, and a spiralling roof geometry that extends 90m from low point to high point and encloses a 40m tall skygarden space.

The design of the Al Hamra Tower required consideration of challenging engineering issues complicated by both the height and form of the structure. Long-term creep and shrinkage of concrete was carefully studied to account for force redistributions and to develop an extensive program of displacement pre-corrections to be made during construction. The spiraling hyperbolic paraboloid ‘flared walls’ required for gravity load support of the cantilevered wing apply a torsional gravity load to the building core that necessitates consideration of both the long-term vertical and torsional deformations of the building structure.

Opened in late 2011, the Al Hamra Tower is a dramatic addition to the skyline of Kuwait City and is set to become a major destination for the city. This presentation will focus on both the technical design and construction challenges in the accomplishment of this complex project.

Civil Engineering Seminar: Mineral Occurrence Revenue Estimation and Visualization Tool

Civil Engineering Seminar: Thursday, March 28, 2013 4:00 pm, Room 642 Dow Bldg.
Speaker: Michael Billmire, Research Scientist, Michigan Tech Research Institute, MTRI
Title: The Mineral Occurrence Revenue Estimation and Visualization Tool, MOREV

Abstract: Under a cooperative project between MTRI and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the MOREV tool was developed in order to effectively assess and communicate the value of mineral occurrences within regions of interest in Alaska, Yukon, and British Columbia. Intermodal optimal routing and carbon accounting modules help assess anticipated mineral development logistics and costs.

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar

Civil Engineering Graduate Seminar, Thursday, February 28, 2013, 4:00 to 5:00 pm, Room 642 Dow
Speaker: Hamed Pouryousef, Ph.D. candidate

Title: Railway Capacity and Evaluating the Results and Features of Two Capacity Simulation Tools on the Shared-use Corridors


The majority of passenger rail services in the United States (U.S.) operate on the shared-use corridors with freight rail. These types of operations tend to be challenging due to high heterogeneity, particularly in terms of reliability of service and capacity availability. The projected growth in demand for rail transportation is likely to exacerbate the situation. Similar to the U.S., the European passenger rail services are generally operated on shared-use corridors, but the infrastructure conditions and the operational priorities and patterns typically allow more reliable and higher speed passenger operations in comparison to the U.S. trains.

Both continents use capacity and simulation software to analyze capacity allocations and operational limitations. However, the effects of the software selection haven’t been investigated. This research reviews two common simulation tools developed in the U.S. and Europe, Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) and Railsys, respectively. The paper reviews the structure and the main components of these two simulation tools. It will also present the outcomes of running RTC and Railsys through a given segment of shared-use track based on the same rolling stock, operation and signaling characteristics and analyze the similarities and differences between the outcomes of RTC and Railsys.