Technical Service Center
2008 Earth School
Amster Howard, Reclamation Retiree,
Visual Soil Classification
The TSC Materials Engineering and Research Laboratory and Engineering Geology Groups united forces again this year to present the Visual Classification of Soils, a three-day Earth School, in the TSC laboratories during the week of February 12th. The goals for the training included introducing participants to the Unified Soil Classification System to providing the tools and knowledge necessary to determine engineering properties of soils in the field, and having fun. Based on feedback from participants, the training was a success on all counts.
Amster Howard, Reclamation retirement class of '94, was on hand to contribute his considerable expertise in the area and to ensure no one left the lab without a smile on their face. Mr. Howard, often referred to as a soils guru or simply "Mr. Earth School," has been involved with this historic training for more years than he would want mentioned. ( It's over 30 but don't tell him it was published.) A long-standing member of the American National Standards Institute, in particular the American Society for Testing and Materials Standards, Mr. Howard is personally responsible for much of the Unified Soils Classification System as we know it today. Additionally, and possibly most importantly, Amster is a personable individual and an obviously gifted speaker and instructor.
Tony Wahl, Reclamation, instructor.
The 30 participants came from all corners of Reclamation, the Corps of Engineers, and the State of Colorado Dam Safety Office. The students were treated to one day of presentations covering a wide variety of topics, carefully doled out over the three days to maintain momentum, blended with two days of hands-on instruction. The class learned a large variety of techniques to visually deduce the engineering characteristics of soils such as determination of grain size distribution, dilatancy (ability to retain moisture), plasticity (moldable quality), dry strength, toughness, and more. In short, all participants came away from the training with a much expanded capability in visual identity of soils.
This was the second school offered in the past year. This year we offered the class to Reclamation and also to other Federal agencies. A special thanks was extended to Ms. Patti Martines for her significant assistance in getting the school up and running and her always-cheerful demeanor. Because of the success of this training and the inability to provide the training to all interested parties, a third session of Visual Classification of Soils, a Mini-Earth School, is tentatively scheduled sometime after the first of the next year. For more information regarding the future training please contact Bill Kepler.