Building Construction Was the Face of Technology at 14NAMC

Javier Irizarry with Astro in front and slide in background listing cutting-edge technologies in construction.
Wes McRae | October 19, 2023 – Atlanta, GA

The 14th North American Masonry Conference saw construction's future through a strong representation of the latest technology and innovation by the  School of Building Construction faculty and students. The conference, this year held in Nebraska and chaired by School Chair Ece Erdogmus, takes place every four years to share scientific, engineering, and architectural advances in masonry.

"We were the face of technology at the conference," Erdogmus said.

Scholars at all levels of the school presented new ideas throughout the conference. Undergraduate students Molly McLeod, Amanuel Shumuye, and Tyler Watson shared their work in the Undergraduate Student Competition.

Molly McLeod points to her presentation about augmented reality
Molly McLeod with her presentation about augmented reality.

McLeod won 2nd place in the Five-Minute Masonry Talk undergraduate student competition for her talk on using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to train future masons. "I was captivated by AR technology when Snapchat first released their selfie filters," McLeod said. "The School gave me the opportunity to use VR and AR with our Construction Technology curriculum."

"Professor Erdogmus encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and submit an abstract for the conference competition. I was excited to speak to masonry scholars and professionals about an innovation I see changing industry for the better."

Stephen Kangisser talking to a room of people. A projected slide about educational summer camp is behind him.
Steven Kangisser gives a presentation on the School's pre-college summer program.

Ph.D. student Steven Kangisser presented use of advanced technology in the School’s pre-college summer program on behalf of the research team, who performed research on the efficacy of the curriculum developed from scratch through an internal grant.

Javier Irizarry, professor in the School, delivered a keynote on "Buildings, Robotics, and AI: Future of AEC." Postdoctoral scholar Semsi Rakici presented a paper on new modeling techniques to predict when and how masonry arches will fail.

Semsi Rakici talking to a room full of people. A slide projected on a screen nearby gives the title of her presentation, "Predicting the Ultimate Force and Collapse Mechanism of Masonry Arches via Peridynamic Modeling."
Semsi Rakici presents her research at the conference.

Georgia Tech School of Building Construction also hosted an exhibition booth at the conference to recruit graduate students for the research-based and technology forward Masters and PhD programs offered at the school. Assistant Professor Omobolanle Ogunseiju demonstrated wearable robotic (exoskeleton) technology for the masonry contractors. Assistant Professor Ebenezer Fanijo joined a technical committee and networked with sustainable masonry construction practitioners and researchers. 

Erdogmus also announced the launch of the Women in Masonry Fund. The fund is a new initiative of The Masonry Society, the host of the conference, to increase female participation with Society in particular and the architecture/engineering/construction fields in general. Leading by example, Erdogmus and her husband, Brian Skourup, sponsored the Inaugural Women in Masonry Scholarship to fund conference participation and some travel expenses for a conference attendee. They also again donated to the pooled endowment for future award offerings. This initiative is an extension of the mission of Erdogmus and the School of Building Construction to build earth-shifting change for the construction industry by raising the ratio of women professionals. 

Erdogmus also enhanced this conference’s outreach component with an inaugural national K-2 STEM drawing competition, in which a first-grade student from Atlanta’s Morningside Elementary student took first place.

The conference was hosted in Omaha, Nebraska, miles away from the conference chair’s current position at Georgia Tech. The School changed this distance from an obstacle to an opportunity, using the trip for an outreach and awareness campaign. A total of eleven faculty and students represented Georgia Tech at the conference. Student ambassador Patrick Huntington and the School's mascot, construction robot dog Astro, made the long journey from Atlanta to Omaha, stopping at iconic locations along the route like Broadway in Nashville and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Wherever they went, Huntington and Astro talked to people they met about the changes coming to the construction industry and already implemented in construction science and management education at Georgia Tech.

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