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Seminar Review: First UniQ-UB/MCEER Earthquake Engineering Seminar Draws More Than 200 Participants

Over 215 engineers and architects attended the first earthquake engineering seminar jointly organized by MCEER and Quisqueya University (UniQ), May 20-22, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Participation was more than twice the number originally expected. The purpose of the seminar was to provide Haitian engineers with much-needed knowledge of fundamental earthquake engineering principles for retrofit of damaged facilities and design of new construction, and to train them in conducting rapid building assessments on the many damaged structures that still remain standing following the January 12 earthquake. The seminar, the first in a series, is part of an international education initiative between the University at Buffalo (UB), UniQ and MCEER.

Four topics were covered in this introductory seminar. These included: Introduction to Seismology and Seismicity of Haiti, Introduction to Earthquake-Resistant Design Principles, Introduction to Earthquake-Resistant Construction for Haiti, and the ATC-20 Rapid Building Assessment Methodology. Lectures were presented by André Filiatrault, MCEER Director and Professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo, and Haitian native and UniQ alumnus Pierre Fouché, a former Fulbright Scholar and current Ph.D. candidate in earthquake engineering, at UB.

Following a full day of classroom instruction, Filiatrault and Fouché led participants in hands-on, in-field training of building assessments on damaged structures in Port-au-Prince. Participants were also required to complete written technical evaluations to gage their understanding of the new material presented.

“After the earthquake of January 12, in Haiti, my studies in earthquake engineering at UB now take on a particular significance for my country,” said Fouché. Fouché originally chose to study earthquake engineering at UB, hoping to help his country avert the tragedy that struck. His focus now turns to helping his homeland rebuild with buildings and infrastructure better designed to withstand future quakes.

“We feel that this is the best thing that we can do for Haiti: to start educating the architects and engineers about the fundamental notions of earthquake engineering so that they can avoid past mistakes,” said Filiatrault.

Due to the high interest in the seminar, Filiatrault and Fouché reconfigured the agenda after they arrived to accommodate the needs of all those interested in attending.

“It was apparent that the participants were very engaged, and there really was a thirst for knowledge,” said Sofia Tangalos, Senior Program Officer of Education/Outreach Activities for MCEER Information Service, who traveled as part of the team to provide logistical support during the seminar.

All seminar content was developed and delivered in French, and took into account current Haitian construction practices.

The seminar marked the inaugural activity under an international Memorandum of Understanding between the University at Buffalo, UniQ and MCEER. The MOU was formally signed by Professor Jacky Lumarque, Rector of UniQ, and Andre Filiatrault, on behalf of UB and MCEER, in a ceremony prior to the seminar. The MOU outlines both short-term and long-term educational initiatives, including a series of professional development seminars (each one equivalent to 15 to 30 Professional Development Hours-PDH) to be held in Port-au-Prince, and the creation of a professional masters of earthquake engineering degree program at UniQ. Seminar participants will be able to apply seminar PDH credits towards the graduate degree.

A Haiti Fulbright Scholarship at UB is also being established as a result of the MOU, with some funding committed by the University’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering and the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory. The scholarship, to be administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), will support a Haitian student studying earthquake engineering at UB for two years.

A second professional development seminar at UniQ is already planned for September 5-9, 2010. This second program will offer more in-depth instruction involving seismic load calculations and design of concrete, concrete-frame, and confined masonry buildings. Wassim Ghannoum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, will join Filiatrault and Fouché, as instructors. The first seminar is considered a prerequisite for this second program, and will be offered again concurrently to accommodate more participants.

“MCEER is making a commitment to provide the initial expertise through these education seminars,” Tangalos says. “But the legacy is going to reside within a Haitian institute, UniQ.”


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