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Success at GIGSA Education Week 2021

The 2nd GIGSA Education Week was hosted as an online event from 5 to 9 July 2021, with the 1st event hosted in July 2018. The event, organised by the GIGSA Board, included three individual proceedings throughout the week, namely:

  • Educate the Educator (5 & 6 July)
  • Afternoon Lecture (7 July)
  • Geosynthetics Conference for Young Professionals (8 & 9 July)

It was decided to limit the event duration to half-day events to maintain the focus of the delegates and prevent ‘Zoom-fatigue’. This Education Week was originally scheduled for June 2020, but, as with many in-person events, was postponed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although restricting the networking and social engagement aspect of a conference, a great benefit of an online event is that it has the capacity to reach a far greater audience, as was witnessed during the individual events throughout the Education Week.

The Educate the Educators event (EtE) was initiated by the International Geosynthetics Society (IGS) in 2013 with similar events having been hosted around the world since its initiation. The EtE is aimed at educating lecturers (specifically lecturers of undergraduate Civil Engineering students) on the use of geosynthetics in construction and how to incorporate a lecture on this topic in their curriculum. A total of 22 delegates attended the EtE over the two-day period. Six of these delegates represented five different institutions throughout South Africa, with the remaining 16 delegates representing Uganda, Egypt, Namibia, the UAE, Zimbabwe, and Sudan. The event was opened by GIGSA President, Charl Cilliers, who was followed by Mr Kent von Maubeuge (NAUE, Germany) who introduced the audience to the types and functions of geosynthetics. Professor Jie Han of Kansas University closed the first session with the standard Educate the Educator lecture: Teaching Geosynthetics to an Undergraduate Class. The subsequent workshop sessions presented by the two guest speakers covered geosynthetics is hydraulic, soil reinforcement and barrier applications. The workshops were interactive with thought-provoking questions posed by the audience, which resulted in interesting discussions at the close of each session. 

The Afternoon Lecture took the form of a webinar and was well attended, with 68 delegates attending from across South Africa. After the introduction by the GIGSA President, Kent von Maubeuge presented an interesting presentation on Designing with Geosynthetic Clay Liners. One of the primary focus points of this presentation was the interpretation of the GRI-GCL3 standard. The lecture is highly recommended for those in the field of barrier design and installation – keep an eye out for it on the GIGSA webpage. After a short break, Prof. Jie Han concluded the Afternoon Lecture with his presentation on the Recent Advances in the Design of Geosynthetic-Improved Roads. The second lecture of the afternoon commenced with an introductory presentation describing the various functions and mechanisms of geosynthetics in pavement applications, where the difference between geosynthetics reinforcement and stabilisation was highlighted, and later progressed into an advanced technical lecture on the ME design of geosynthetic-improved bases.

The main purpose of the GCYP is to provide a platform for young professionals to familiarise themselves with the industry, be exposed to products and solutions in the market, as well as to learn about the appropriate use of geosynthetics. With that being said, the quality and variety of presentations at this year’s GCYP certainly went a long way to achieve this purpose. With twelve presenters from all facets of the geosynthetics industry, including suppliers (manufacturers), installers, consulting engineers, and academics, the 24 delegates in attendance gained valuable insight from the presenters. The Honorary Member for the event, Mr Piet Meyer, prepared a keynote presentation in which he described his fulfilling career in the geosynthetics industry and encouraged all attendees to invest in relationships, travel the world and use every opportunity to learn, and in so doing, contribute to protecting our environment.

Finally, in his closing of both the GCYP and Education Week as a whole, the GIGSA President announced the winners of the best paper and best presentation for the GCYP. The best presentation was awarded to Shade Muluti, representing the University of Cape Town, in which he presented on the Shear Behaviour of Multiple Layer Interface of Typical Components in a Landfill Liner System. A tie was announced for the best paper award, therefore both Jean Visagie’s (SRK) paper on Practical Considerations for the Design and Construction of a HDPE-Lined Tailings Storage Facility, as well as Simphiwe Zondo’s (Jones & Wagener) paper detailing the Review of the Waste Slope Stability Design of a Landfill Site in Gauteng were awarded the best papers at this year’s event.

Overall, and under the circumstances, the 2021 GIGSA Education Week was a great success, and we look forward to hosting the next one.

  • A huge thank you to the sponsors of the Education Week, without whom this event would not have been possible:
  • Main Event Sponsor: Jones & Wagener
  • General Sponsor:
    • TeMa South Africa
    • AKS Linings Systems
    • Gundle
  • Case Study Presentation: Fibertex
  • GCYP Best Paper & Presentation Vouchers: Huesker

Article by:
Kate Lauwrens Pr Eng