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A dialog about our new bridge and these web pages

Overview. As a pointy-headed university professor, my weekend project of bridge photography and building these web pages generated many questions and introduced me to just-in-time learning. I enjoy chasing my curiosity and want to identify ways to encourage younger learners to also enjoy curiosity chasing and learning.

Learning usually requires repetition while forgetting occurs when I infrequently use information. Many young learners do not understand the importance of repetition. Weekly visits to the bridge provided the repetition necessary to detect changes in the bridge and consequently generated many questions and opportunities for learning. Over the course of the bridge project, I had access to few experts for answering questions. Rather than a liability, this became an asset and pushed me to improve my search skills with Google. Soon, I found that answers to questions encountered during my weekly photo shoots were often only a Google-search away - (see Restoring the Joy in Learning). Consequently Google + Internet became dependable extensions of my memory.

The bridge story is a work in progress and is evolving from a simple collections of photographs to an experiment with Internet-centric just-in-time learning. Insights I gain from you will find their way into the learning centers of MUSC. Palmetto Bridge Constructors, a joint venture between Tidewater Skanska and Flatiron Constructors, as well as High Steel Structures, Freyssinet, the SCDOT and the Federal Highway Commission Office of Bridge Technology guided much of my learning. I also learn from many of you and from Google-linked resources. More important is the e-mail encouragement I receive from many of you.

Sat, 13 Aug 2005

August 13, 2005: A suggestion to Mayor Riley and the Transportation Board

During the construction of the Morrison Street on-ramp, bicycle and pedestrian walkway, there was an obstacle at the base of the Pearman bridge. A vertical support structure prevented paving a small section of the bicycle lane. A small wooden platform was built around the Pearman supports - a sort of detour.

With the demolition of the Pearman and Grace moving ahead (briskly), I understand that this platform will be removed when the vertical supports are removed. Then the bicycle lane paving will be completed. But what a perfect spot to place a few park benches so that walkers can stop, rest and contemplate not only our wonderful bridge, but life, the universe and everything. So what about this option, is it possible to modify the contract with Cashman-Testa to not remove the wooden platform and for the City to populate it with a few park benches - particularly useful to maturing adults (age > 60)?

posted at: 07:08 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 07 Aug 2005

August 7, 2005: Experimenting with Nikon raw image format

Vince Streano convinced me that I should take my serious photos using RAW image formats instead of jpg - due to small artifacts introduced by the data compression process. For most of my academic work, open source tools meet 80 - 90% of my needs. This morning I took a photo of the Ravenel Bridge just to test the idea - in both RAW and high resolution JPEG format.

UFRaw is a GIMP plugin that facilitates processing Nikon raw formats without having to install Nikon software.

Here is an early morning photo of the Ravenel Bridge with the Pearman and Grace Bridges in the background

And the jpeg equivalent

posted at: 09:51 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 06 Aug 2005

August 6, 2005: What is the connection between the Tour de France and building the Ravenel Bridge?

It was July 21, 2004 when David Wertz from SCDOT provided me with my first inside look at the bridge construction processes. The motivation came from Bill Mankin at High Steel Structures in Lancaster Pa - who had been exchanging email with me about which steel came from them and which steel came from other vendors. About a week before I noted that some edge girders were being lifted using cranes anchored in the river and wondered about how the stability of the crane barge was adequate for the precision placement of the edge girders.

The fog that day was thicker than pea soup and it was impossible to see the erection process from the water. So we visited the deck of the left main span. While waiting for the fog to clear we were invited to look at the cable installation process inside the west pylon. This was my first exposure to the French group of Freyssinet. Later, we visited the top of the west tower and looking down I watched the Freyssinet guy direct the strands of cables as they were fed from the anchorage area see ( for the details). He was wearing a Freyssinet t-shirt and with Google I found that Freyssinet was a French company. I thought to myself, wow, what a great vantage point to watch the final stages of le Tour de France - even if it is 3000 miles away.

Each year, my son-in-law, and economist that studies French and California agriculture policies related to wine production, rents a flat in France and Ellen and I provide babysitting duty. This year Trevor rented a flat about 6 - 8 blocks from the Arc de Triomphe, where the race would end with several loops up the Champs Elysees. What an opportunity to close the loop with Freyssinet that started the year before. We arrived in Paris on the 23rd and Sunday about 1pm we made our way to the Champs Elysees to watch and maybe photograph the finish.

The crowd was wall to wall people - even 4 hours before the peloton arrived - and I am impatient and what to do standing in place for 4 hours? I decided that the crowd and the competition for photos was really worth documenting and took this photo - just to show all the cameras (count them if you can). I was about 3 rows back - and the only way I could take an unobstructed photo was to hold the camera high above my head, aim and click - blindly taking photos of whatever my camera was pointed toward.

After the finish, Trevor and I returned home downloaded our photos and discovered we caught Lance Armstrong and his Discovery team on their first pass up the Champs Elysees. For the story of our Paris holiday and photos of the Tour de France visit our Paris flat, dinners on our terrace and views of many interesting things.

The adventure from July 21 2004 and my introduction to Freyssinet to July 24, 2005 and the finish of le Tour de France cannot be described. For this adventure, I thank Trevor, of course, Marvin Tallent, an avid cyclist who works for Flatiron and was in charge of QA and QC for the bridge and was my guide for many constructions issues, and finally Oliver Forget and his colleagues at Freyssinet who shared with me an inside look at stay cable installation and testing.

posted at: 07:24 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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