We traveled to Halifax to take part in the Canadian Engineering Education Conference. At the conference we presented a study titled Fire Safety Engineering Education using Experiential Learning by myself and student authors Lauren Folk and Claudia Gaudreault. The presentation described successes of the re-launch of our human behavior in Fires course at Carleton University last Spring. Of emphasis is a high rise evacuation drill the students partook in. The conference was quite eye-opening in that it dealt with how design is to incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum, alot of focus was given to how we can improve enrolements of women in STEM. overall the conference touched on a number of subjects. There were two talks about fire engineering, and a number of discussions which broke out to the state of fire engineering in Canada. The highlights though included the perfect choice of venue, and the number of activities that Halifax had to offer. i was very impressed by the students i met, and hope them the best as they progress through their studies.
Most of the research team will be travelling next to Interflam to present four papers. We will then be visiting Edinburgh, and London. More to come!!!!
Every two years the Structures in Fire Conference is held. This year it was held in New Jersey at Princeton University. It was a fantastic trip with two of my research team student members to take in the ninth iteration of the conference. And as always a great learning experience re-connecting with old friends and making new opportunities for collaboration.
The conference was held over four days and featured numerous sessions. The competition to have papers was very competitive, of my two submissions only one was accepted (ill speak on those below). To begin the conference we had an excellent and informative meeting for the ASCE fire protection committee. On that committee I am a task group leader for acceptance criteria for structural fire design. At the meeting I was able to relay information regarding the creation of a Fire Safety Engineering sub committee in Canada (CSCE) which Ill be leading (please contact me if there is interest in joining). We were also able to recruit additional individuals to help pave the way in Canada. This is very key for the safe building of such a framework in the canadian side. The whole meeting was very constructive. Afterwards we attended the opening reception of the conference. The social programme was very enriching, where my favorite part was the conference banquet. The most enjoyable presentations i found were Jose Torero’s on thermal boundaries as it spurred a very good amount of thought process on thermal boundaries, where my other favorite was Florian Block’s presentation on a case study of a heritage building interlacing with fire safety engineering. Which presents a unique teaching aspect to really push Carleton students to how fire safety engineering impacts heritage and conservation. I loved how the conference also featured a session on travelling fires research. Students joining me at the conference were very impressed with the structure, content, guests, and formatting. Discussions were numerous during the breaks, and the receptions were plentiful to foster those talks. Overall i think it was one of the best conference iterations and most productive of Structures in Fire.
Only one slide!?
All papers were ranked before presenting, where the highest rated abstracts were to be presented in the introductory morning session. Our paper called Insights into the Complexity of Structural Fire Response from Repeated Heating Tests on Post-Tensioned Concrete was the opening presentation on the second day for concrete. This was a very complicated subject to present. And I spent a great deal in time trying to effectively decide a way to communicate the presentation (spending about 15 hours building and practicing the presentation) . On one hand the paper includes very refined and detailed analysis on Load Induced Thermal Strains (LITS), and on the other hand there is a powerful message needing to be relayed about concrete in fire which can easily be lost in the very complicated deflection behavior observed in the test programme ( keep in mind the previous test series were so extensive they required a 91 page book to describe…..). So I took a chance and opted to break presentation convention through lecturing rather than presenting featured slides. Such a presentation is with huge risks ~ you have nothing to fall back on, and have to be flawless – your stress levels will also be higher because you will not engage everyone let alone pull off the talk flawlessly. I felt about a quarter of the audience would be lost with the presentation method i would use however no matter how well i prepared; and for that I apologize to them. However if I used traditional measures of presentation, I think i would have lost about three quarters of the audience in the time allotted – basically losing the key message entirely. So I gave a presentation carefully in reference to the paper ( I memorized figure numbers, page numbers to point the audience to and relayed that information as so in the presentation), and walked the audience through the material using only one slide – the fire safety engineering drivers (as shown). I told a story, and attempted to teach.
I received great feedback afterwards and on reflection, can definitely improve ways to deliver an improved version of this style of presentation where slides are not used (though i think ill stay clear of the format for the moment). The better bits being to reduce the length of the talk to around 6 minutes (less is more), and provide a slow dialogue for the audience to follow. What was good about the presentation was the praise that it promoted discussion and debate of the subject, and provided an engaging lesson of cautionary tales of research and interpretation of results. Overall it had a great reception with a bit of flare for discussion (I did build a full presentation set of 20 slides if people wish to see these in which case please contact me and ill share a pdf of these slides). My own reflection is that two or three more slides would have been better. Sometimes its best to try something new., but the risks can be very high when doing so – so caution is always needed when trying something different.
I attended the CSCE conference this year in London Ontario with several students from Carleton. We had several presentations to do. I gave a talk to young professionals and students on Fort McMurray and my thoughts pertaining to how it happened and how we will see this again. I think there is a responsibility of young professionals to be proactive in assessing and studying international hazards and how they pertain to Canada – we need to be more proactive. I am concerned though that the learning opportunities from an engineering perspective are slipping away from us for this particular disaster. Subsequently in our research team we are looking into a few of the underlying issues related to the disaster this summer. It was however great to see the energy from the youth in discussing the issues in Canada. I had a great time chatting with student members of my former alumni school UofO.
Student capstone projects
I also took in the capstone competition to see what other groups were doing. Carleton came in first owing to the fantastic performance of the representing students who got through their presentation and Q and A flawlessly (they had two minutes to do so!) They rocked it though. This isnt an easy feat for any of the groups though. I think again you really have to hand it to the students – they did this, and they were fantastic to pull it off. I had conversations with other groups representing the competition. I think we need to do more as professors to push these projects. The students are capable of doing awesome things in their designs and the competition, and means so much to them – they are so dedicated, I remember seeing some preparing in the hotel lobby in the wee hours of the morning coming in. Another example one group missed their convocation because they wanted to push their project and present it at the conference. That is dedication. Another group told me they learnt all the steel design on their own incorporating fire protection measures in a school. I loved that design – why though? – it was that without any training from FSE those students designed their structural layout perfectly to employ PBFD best practice layout measures (see Flints 2013 FT paper). I was astounded and hopeful for steel design in Canada and its future. Finally I spoke to another group, and the amazing thing there was the confidence in pushing one’s design. You see in practice you will have to sell the design, and many of these students are able to do so. My favorite presentations in no order were Carleton’s, Queens, Saskatchewan, and Memorial. I wish the absolute best for those I had the pleasure to talk to during those conversations.
Other presentations at the conference
It was great chatting with other colleagues, I relished the chats with some senior members in the field whom were both practitioners and academics. It was great to see so many people working towards great goals at promoting and pushing the boundaries of engineering. However, i think certain individuals need a reality check on what heritage and conservation actually is…but we wont go there…..My offer stands 😉
Fire Safety Engineering Measures in Canada from CSCE
We made huge progress for Fire Safety Engineering in Canada. At the CSCE Structures division section we successfully created a sub division for fire safety engineering which i will lead, currently I have recruited Mark Green, and Matt Smith to join me and will reach out to other volunteers shortly after SIF (feel free to contact me if keen). Ian Burgess gave a fascinating key note on steel connections in fire which i think a number of students were very keen on. We had a whole afternoon on on fire safety engineering presentations from students to industry. A MTO prestressed concrete bridge after fire was discussed, LITs was covered (see Martin Gillies blog), FRPs in fire by Queens as well as my Carleton student colleague Hailey with her student presentation on Timber in fire and DIC which was Brilliant! Two other presentations by Therese McAllister (NIST) on resiliency in structures, and Denis Millette (Golder) on the Lac Magnetic fire and the environmental clean up as key notes are sure to get people interested in the potential to grow the field of Fire Safety Engineering. I believe we advanced fse a bit this week which is grand. Off to the US next week for SIF!