Last week myself, and some stellar students working with me, attended the Fifth International Workshop on Performance, Protection & Strengthening of Structures under Extreme Loading held at Michigan State University organised by Drs. Kodur and Banthia. The workshop would be what I would consider one of the more major extreme event (structural fire being my focus) research gatherings in North America this year. Attended by delegates from nearly thirty countries, the workshop offered a good level of discussion and the potential for future collaborations. Nearly 120 papers can be found in the workshop’s proceedings. I felt the key note presentations were exemplars and lived up to their billing. Each being a good level of thought and presenting detailed information and advancements for practitioners to consider. If I had any criticism to share, I would have preferred a bit more time for discussion for some presentations, however; that said, some presentations did invoke further discussion during breaks where they dealt with challenging problems our fire community faces. The best touch of the workshop I think was the river cruise the first night there. Overall the workshop was well organised, stimulating, and above all enjoyable. It was great to see colleagues that I haven’t seen in years to discuss life and research.
At the conference members of my research team (and my collaborators) put forward three papers: Material Characteristics of Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer (GFRP) Bars at High Temperature led by Hamze Hajiloo; Post-Fire Investigations of Prestressed Concrete Structures led by Lucie Robertson; and Structural Fire Design for Composite Steel Deck Construction in Canada led by Matt Smith. With this number of presentations there was a necessity to practice. With the assistance and participation of Mark Green of Queens University, and Holly Smith of Edinburgh University (United Kingdom), we organised a short one day symposium in Kingston a few days before the workshop. This is something I think we need to push more in Canada. In the United Kingdom there are multiple forums which are available for students to present their fire research before conferences and receive valuable feedback that they can incorporate in their work. The more important view in my eyes is that graduate students receive feedback from multiple professors and their peers. And such an opportunity to engage in a symposium with three universities, industry reps and a dozen graduate students from several universities was too valuable of an experience not to have particularly for the students involved. It is my hope that we can continue such efforts in the future like this to encourage this type of forum for our students studying fire engineering in Canada. This can engage our universities across Canada and strengthen collaboration. Maybe this student symposium is something we can grow in Canada and continue again next year.