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2007 Tri-Center Field Mission to Japan

The NSF-sponsored 2007 Tri-Center Field Mission represented by a group of 3 educators and 14 students from the three Earthquake Engineering Research Centers (MAE, MCEER, and PEER) and NEES visited Japan, a country in one of the most seismically active regions in the world and one of the leaders in earthquake engineering research. The team, led by Professor Scott Ashford (PEER), included four MCEER SLC members and UB PhD candidates - Georgios Apostolakis, Seda Dogruel, Nurhan Ecemis and Bing Qu – was accompanied by MCEER Director of Education, Professor Sabanayagam Thevanayagam. The primary purposes of the mission was to introduce students to international centers of excellence in earthquake studies; study emerging areas of research and application; view areas impacted by recent earthquakes; discern useful lessons learned in recovery and rebuilding; experience international culture of earthquake research; foster cooperation between the three EERCs and encourage networking among the students.

The trip began with a visit to the Center for Urban Earthquake Engineering (CUEE) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Students participated in a Japan-US-Taiwan Symposium on earthquake engineering jointly organized by EERC and CUEE, and made presentations on their PhD research topics including structural control, structures, geotechnical engineering, and more. The Symposium was followed by a CUEE reception. Participants had a chance to sample traditional Japanese food and exchange cultural and engineering experiences with Japanese students. The next day, field mission participants took a boat tour of Tokyo Bay and observed major ongoing construction projects along the Bay: Tokyo-wan Rinkai Bridge and D-runway of Tokyo International Airport. They proceeded to the Port and Airport Research Institute (PARI) for a technical visit. PARI is an independent administrative institution with its primary goal to facilitate the efficient construction of ports and airports through research and the development of technologies. Students had an opportunity to view demonstration tests at major laboratory facilities: Underwater 3-D Shaking Table; Simulation Tank for Oil Recovery in Marine Situations; laboratory for Coastal Ecotoxicology/Mesocosm; Geotechnical Centrifuge; Aircraft Load Simulator; and Large Hydro-Geo Flume (tsunami facility). While in Tokyo, the students also had a chance to visit various cultural sites as well.

The group also organized a one-day post-earthquake reconnaissance visit to Kashiwazaki, the city most affected by the July 16, 2007 earthquake in Chuetsu region, Niigata, Japan. The tour included a visit to damaged bridges, a collapsed concrete plant, areas with lateral spreading and liquefied soils at the Kashiwazaki port and Matsunami area, and collapsed/damaged wooden houses in the city. Though tragic in nature, the devastation of earthquakes can serve as a real-life learning laboratory and the participants gained valuable lessons from the field visit that brought new perspectives to their research agendas. The next day, the mission continued traveling by train from Tokyo to Kyoto. In the morning the team visited Nijo Castle, a UNESCO world heritage site, originally built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu. The group then visited the Disaster Prevention Research Institute (DPRI) at Kyoto University and directed by Professor Susumu Iai. At Kyoto University another Japan-US Joint symposium on earthquake engineering took place - students from the US and DPRI presented their research work; followed by a technical visit to the DPRI experimental facilities. Professor Iai invited the group to dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant in Kyoto where cultural and engineering experiences were exchanged with Japanese students.

The last day, the team visited the E-Defense facilities at Miki City, learned about recent and ongoing research, and toured the laboratory which houses the largest seismic table in the world, the Miki seismic table. The tour included a detailed examination of the shake table, full scale specimens that had been used in previous experiments, and a separate facility where the specimens are constructed. After the E-Defense, the team visited the Hanshin Expressway Museum and had a unique opportunity to see components taken from the collapsed Hanshin Expressway during the 1995 Kobe earthquake and learned about the retrofit/redesign strategies and new technologies that were employed in its expeditious restoration. The final stop was at the 980-meter long Minato-Ohhashi Bridge in Osaka City, the world’s third longest truss bridge, and learned about the retrofits implemented after the Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake in 1995.

Students are preparing reports focusing on different aspects of earthquake engineering based on new insights they gained from the trip. An SLC seminar on the experiences by these students is planned for the near future. More information and a photo journal of the trip will be posted on the SLC website.