Watch the demolition (unbuilding) of the Grace and Pearman Bridges (old Cooper River Bridges)

The Bridge Blog
A dialog about our new bridge and these web pages

Overview. Schools and universities are all about learning - and learning is mostlly brain training. Learning is expedited by repetition and forgetting is expedited by infrequent use of learned skills or information. Tracking the building of the Ravenel Bridge and now tracking the demolition of the Grace and Pearman Bridges bring many questions to me and help me better understand the role Google and the Internet play in 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.

Many young learners do not understand the importance of repetition. More important, while experienced learners understand the learning process they often do not realize the destructive effects of the forgetting process. Over the course of the bridge project, I have access to only a few experts. Rather than a liability, this has become an asset and pushed me to improve my search skills with Google. Soon, I realized that answers to questions encountered during my photo adventures were often only a Google-search away. Gene Stead, my first boss and I put these ideas together in a small essay: (see Restoring the Joy in Learning).

Google + Internet have become dependable extensions of my memory. Insights I gain from you and this project will find their way into the learning centers in our schools and universities.

Sun, 23 Jul 2006

July 23, 2006 Curious about double images in the pier base explosions

Many of you know that a lot of fun in my day is based on exploring data. I have never understood why data analysis was so much fun - but as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed looking at data, looking for common denominators, looking for the unexpected and then trying to understand the basis of a common denominator or explain an unexpected result.

Here are two frames from imploding the base of P-10 on July 12, 2006. Note the double image of the wave at the base of the pier foundation and smoke

Thinking that was associated with an underwater shock wave colliding with the barge used for video recording, I looked at the implosion of C-1 on July 14 and observed the same result - a double image

and then after several hundred milliseconds, the double image resolved into a single image

Testing whether this was associated with some sort of underwater shock wave, I selected as a control, the above-water implosion of the C-2 pier. My speculation was that this blast did not involve an underwater shock wave whereas the above two blasts created an underwater shock wave

I could detect no double images with the C-2 pier implosion (above two images). What I think is happening is that each video frame consists of two fields, one of the even scan lines and one of the odd scan lines. When processed, the two fields are combined which improves the resolution. One field is scanned every 16.67 msec so I suspect that there was enough movement of the barge between two consecutive frames to produce the double images.

It would be interesting to superimpose the base of the rock island, behind the pier foundations, and see if they appeared to shift up or down between successive frames - paralleling the movement of the barge as the shock wave passed.

posted at: 21:47 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 20 Mar 2006

March 20, 2006 Almost goodbye.

Gary Eaton, Frank Starmer and Sparky Witte
The three muskateers of Charleston construction photography

One cold morning in January I was watching some girders being erected on Line 14 (the East Bay on ramp) and up drives a car and out pops a man, tripod, camera, hard hat, safety vest - just like me. This was Gary Eaton who had been tracking the bridge longer than I had. During the July transition from building the Ravnel Bridge to unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges, I received some photos from Sparky Witte from Mt Pleasant. Suddenly, the Internet provided two new friends for capturing the behind the scenes story of the building and unbuilding processes. This started our small club of Charleston Construction Photographers - who knows what will happen next?

While Gary is a real photographer (visit his Studio web site), Sparky and I were novices and eager to learn. I was very fortunate to acquire additional Internet-initatied contacts that facilitated my learning. Vince Streano from Seattle provided insights about capturing construction photos while Stephen SetteDucati from Boston and did the Big Dig at NIght provided some insights for night photography.

While the Internet is a useful communication tool, it is also a tool for social interactions. I would never found Gary, Sparky, Vince or Stephen without the Internet's ability to publish my building and unbuilding stories. As I enter the last few day of acute loose end overload - preparing to depart for Singapore and Duke on Thursady, I am confident that our interactions will continue. Nugget, one of the iron work acrobats has some digital images for our site, Sparky and Gary will continue and I suspect others will contribute. What a wonderful time Ellen and I have had in Charleston and we shall certainly miss it. We are keeping our home and we are keeping all the warm friends that we have made - particularly Tom and Joan Bryce, our neighbors.

posted at: 10:20 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 05 Mar 2006

March 5, 2006: Frank's next chapter.

My professional life has centered around the fun of learning and my professional home has always been within universities. Each step of my academic career has been fun and full of surprises - both scientific and cultural. For 32 years I was a faculty member at Duke in the Departments of Medicine (Cardiology) and Computer Science. During this time I was fortunate to stumble on the fun of international collaboration - in France, Germany, Egypt, Spain, the USSR, starting in 1987 in Moscow at the All Union Center for Experimental and Clinical Cardiology. In 1991, I shifted my collaboration to Valentin Krinsky's Autowave laboratory in the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics in Pushchino, about 100 km south of Moscow. In parallel, I extended my experiments with other cultures and taught for a year (1993-94) in India (the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras) and more recently (1997-1998) in Greece (where I was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Patras and most recently, developed a link with the University of Mostar, Bosnia in 2000 and in 2001.

Now I am about to embark on another cultural adventure. The Government of Singapore and Duke University have signed a memorandom of understanding to build a new Graduate Medical School in Singapore. I have signed to be part of the new faculty - led by Pat Casey in Singapore and Sandy Williams at Duke. For Ellen and myself, this is a like a trip back home - putting us within a few hours flight time of our friends in South India, Bangladesh and Thailand. I have signed a 3 year contract and will be the Associate Dean for Learning Technologies - a continuation of my career as an engineer in the setting of Medical Education. In addition, I suspect there will be a new Building web site, tracking the construction of the Duke - GMS building.

The bridge building and unbuilding web sites will continue. With the members of my former IT Lab at MUSC, we have established a server - Butterfat that will act as an Internet home base for these sites, and those of web page to butterfat ( mine and my IT Lab colleagues).

Sparky and the iron workers (Nugget and Speedy) have offered to continue to photograph the progress with unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges. They will send me photos and the stories and I shall try to maintain the continuity of the unbuilding process from Singapore. This will form the core of another Frank Experiment - can we sustain our momentum with participants located half way around the world from each other. In addition, I shall lean on my unbuilding friends at Jay Cashman and Testa - Ken Canty, Ponch Billingsley, Mickey Rogers and Ken Tully at Advanced Blasting Services and the families of Michael Hebb, Richie Bagan and Jack Foley. You cannot imagine how much new life and energy these folks have brought into the lives of Frank and Ellen Starmer in Charleston.

I am certain that there will be building and unbuilding opportunities in Singapore and the surrounding area. For example, Oliver Forget (Freyssinet) is now located in Bangkok and is building a new cable stay bridge there. Marvin Tallent is in Pensacola and Peo Halvarsson is in the process of moving back to Sweden. I shall continue to poke these friends and tell their stories.

posted at: 15:15 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 09 Feb 2006

February 9 2006 2am: Another chapter about signature bridges

One day as I was following the building of the Ravenel Bridge, I stumbled on a tablet on the top of the west tower that was signed by many of the bridge workers. Hmm, I thought, this is what a signature bridge is all about.

Today, though, I discovered another variant of Signature Bridges. Jackie and Richie thought that tonight, they would unpour the last section of Grace roadway at the Mt. Pleasant entrance. So off I went, about 8pm to watch. At 2am Friday morning, it was complete - and - wow, what a new meaning for signature bridge. Jack, Richie,Rich, Roy and myself - the only witnesses to this event. Click for the Grace signature bridge story. Huge thanks to Richie, Jackie, Rich and Roy for the invitation!

posted at: 02:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 29 Jan 2006

January 29, 2006: Lessons learned from building the Ravenel Bridge.

Several people have asked about how these pages got started. This is easy: I started these web pages as a way for my grand kids to follow the building of the Ravenel Bridge. But a number of people are curious about my access to the building site. Several months ago, I as asked this question during a Channel 5 TV interview and I simply replied, "I smile". It was a serious answer.

There are two ways to become involved in a project - the front door and the back door. The front door is always obvious and usually opens to a receptionist who directs you to someone. The back doors are usually hidden, but with some practice, you can find the back doors. These doors lead to the men and women that do the building and unbuilding.

When I started building the Ravenel Bridge web pages, I simply took photos and wrote short photo essays for the kids. I was not looking for either front doors or back doors. But Bill Mankin of High Steel Structures in Lancaster Pa contacted me about the web site - and without knowing it, opened a back door to High Steel Structures. They fabricated the structural steel used to build the main span. David Wertz, then with SCDOT opened doors. Somehow, Olivier Forget of Freyssinet (in Paris) found the web pages and opened another back door and introduced me to the complexity and excitement of cable stay bridges. Then Bill Mankin sent email stating that his team would be in Charleston to drill and ream the splice plate used to join the east and west spans and maybe I would like to watch. Not knowing what to do I phoned PBC and Marvin Tallent answered the phone. I described Bill's request and soon Marvin introduced me to Peo Halvarsson (superintendent of the Main Span) and Wade Watson, who directed the entire project. Bill, David, Marvin, Peo and Olivier became my professors of bridge-ology and through their eyes, I saw and gained insights into the complexity of their project. Because of them, my goal shifted from a grand kids project to one of telling the unseen stories of bridge building.

The project ended - Wade returned to Tidewater Virginia, but Peo and Marvin made their way to Pensacola Florida where they are working on rebuilding the causeway (I believe, part of I-10). Our friendships have extended beyond the completion of the Ravenel Bridge and a few days ago, Marvin sent me a photo of their project (above) and announced that he had just purchased a new digital SLR camera. Marvin is also a serious cyclist (of the bicycle variety - whereas Wade was a serious cyclist of the Harley-Davidson variety). We are keeping our eyes open for opportunituies to ride together over the Ravenel Bridge. We did this several times before the bridge opened, but that did not count. Somehow, riding together over the completed bridge will provide a nice ending to the story of building the Ravenel Bridge.

When the Unbuilding project started - Ken Canty and Ponch Billingsly provided back door access to the Pearman-Grace project. However, the web site, I soon discovered, provided for them a way for their families in Boston and other places to watch their husbands at work. Tina Hebb and Kathy Billingsley were the brave souls that initially encouraged me to engage not only the workers here, but their families there. Their families as well as members of other families (Hal, Joy, Shannon, Corey, Donna-Rae, Joshua) joined the email discussions. Now they are my professors along with Bob McCabe, Pio Monsini, Michael Hebb, Jackie Foley, Neal Meyers and Richie Bagen. Through their eyes I have continue to learn more about building and unbuilding - not just bridges but life. What a learning experience these men and their families have brought to me. The lesson for me is about sharing - first with my grand kids and then with the world. Sharing via the Internet created social contacts that would not have happened without the Internet. The Internet is our new learning tool and for me, adds to the fun of the day.

posted at: 07:21 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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