Senior Principal Geotechnical Engineer Matt Smith is leading a group of senior GeoEngineers staff in one of their most challenging projects to date—teaching college students. This semester, they’re team-teaching CM 432 Soils and Foundations, an upper-level prerequisite class in the University of Washington’s School of Construction Management.
Last August, Matt Smith’s name came up during a steering committee search for a replacement teacher for Soils and Foundations. Committee members were familiar with his and GeoEngineers’ work and thought the students could benefit from the perspectives of engineers and scientists working in the field right now.
The class would require a lot of time and preparation, so Matt’s second thought was to call in some backup. He presented the idea to some of his colleagues, and they decided to split teaching responsibilities. In addition to sharing the workload, this approach gives students the chance to learn from specialists on each topic. Throughout this semester Matt, Joe Laprade, Mark Molinari, Linsday Flangas, King Chin, Hamilton Puangnak, Steve Spencer, Dana Carlisle (Redmond) and Lyle Stone (Tacoma) will all be presenting to the class.
“It’s good to give back to the community,” Matt explains. “And we bring a different perspective. We do this every day and can share unique case histories and experiences—if we do it right, we can offer these students something really valuable.”
GeoEngineers Learning Program Manager Joe Laprade introduced students to soil classification and geotechnical laboratory testing in one of the first classes in early January. By briefly covering a range of lab tests, Joe hoped to prepare the class for the geotechnical reports and data they’ll need to understand as construction managers someday.
“It was really nice to be able to give back,” Joe says, “and help to highlight the real-world knowledge the students will need.”
Matt and the teaching team had planned to have class in-person, but like teachers everywhere they’ve had to adjust to Omicron. That means dealing with the technological headaches of remote learning, at least until the end of the month. The ten-week class started the first week of January and has already had four presentations. In addition to lectures and exams, there is a site visit to a GeoEngineers development project in Bellevue, Washington planned for the end of the semester.