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RD20 fosters collaboration

Published Nov. 5, 2020
Mariely Mejas-Santiago of the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory poses with her computer between sessions during RD20, a virtual collaborative event that was hosted Oct. 27-30 by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. More than 755 people attended the four-day, online event.

Mariely Mejas-Santiago of the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory poses with her computer between sessions during RD20, a virtual collaborative event that was hosted Oct. 27-30 by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. More than 755 people attended the four-day, online event.

VICKSBURG, Miss.— With scientists, engineers and other professionals spread across seven laboratories and multiple fields sites across the country, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) network is vast. But last week, ERDC hosted a virtual symposium – RD20 – with the goal of further connecting researchers scattered in various laboratories and locations throughout the country to enhance the organization’s ability to solve the nation’s toughest engineering challenges.

Beginning Oct. 27, the four-day event was aimed at creating new collaboration and networks within ERDC, while fostering communication among different laboratories and branches that might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact.

“When we remove the boundaries of ‘my research’ or ‘my laboratory’ and work together, we can truly be innovative,” Dr. David Pittman told participants at the event’s closing session Oct. 30. “You are all our future, and I can say without reservation, that the future of ERDC is in very good hands.”

More than 755 employees participated in the online event, which featured keynote speeches from Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, 55th Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Mike McMeekin, director of the Engineering Change Lab-USA.

The RD20 theme was “innovating across boundaries,” aimed at encouraging ERDC team members to showcase research that has overcome technical, social and geographical boundaries. With the COVID-19 virus preventing an in-person event this year, the theme was even more relevant to the hundreds of people who logged on to participate virtually.

“RD20 went off without a hitch thanks to the tremendous effort by the ERDC Emerging Leaders Group and support staff…even with the challenges of COVID, teleworking and virtual conferencing requirements,” said Dr. Robert Moser, who served as the Senior Scientific Technical Manager advisor for the event. “The plenary talks by our senior leadership and invited speakers were certainly inspiring and helped to generate broad awareness across the ERDC workforce of many of the strategic drivers for the future of our science and technology campaigns. And the technical sessions, aligned with our ERDC core competencies and kicked off by ERDC thought leaders were exceptional at highlighting our legacy, the breadth of our current R&D programs and where we’re going to address the future challenges facing the warfighter and the nation.”

RD20 was coordinated and executed by the Emerging Leaders Group (ELG), an initiative of the ERDC Directorate of Human Capital that focuses on developing leadership of people and programs. 

“RD20, ERDC’s first virtual research and development workshop, brought the workforce together to innovate across boundaries after almost eight months of teleworking,” said Heather Theel, an ELG member and RD20 chair. “The RD20 coordination team was so impressed by the active participation across ERDC during the event, it exceeded all our expectations.”

Featuring more than 340 speakers from across six time zones, the comprehensive agenda covered each of ERDC’s core competencies—battlespace terrain mapping; blast and weapons effects; civil and military engineering; cold regions science and engineering; military installations and infrastructure;  computational prototyping; coastal, river and environmental engineering; and building our team.