Date: March 19-21, 2024 Location: Oklahoma City Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

The Underground Infrastructure Conference (UIC) is an annual major event in the field of underground construction, attracting industry experts, researchers, and practitioners from around the world. This year’s conference aimed to provide a platform for attendees to share the latest research findings, technological advancements, and best practices, thereby promoting the development of the underground infrastructure industry.   A student delegation organized by Dr. Tom Iseley and Wei Liao from the Purdue/BAMI-I Underground Infrastructure team consisted of eleven Purdue University students representing the UCA (Underground Construction Association) and NASTT (North American Society for Trenchless Technology) chapters at the conference. These students had the opportunity to listen to industry leaders, participate in various interactive workshops and technical demonstrations, and gain hands-on experience with the latest construction methods and equipment. These activities enriched their theoretical knowledge and provided them with invaluable practical experience. This is the third time Purdue and BAMI-I have jointly organized the “Developed  Future Underground Construction Leader” program. The program also includes organizing student visits to construction sites and other activities.  

Corporate Sponsorship Empowering Student Growth Collaboration between industry and educational institutions has a long and fruitful history. Many companies and organizations recognize that supporting students in attending industry conferences is an effective way to cultivate future professionals and promote the integration of academic research and practical applications. Companies such as CPM Pipelines, Midwest Mole, Ace Pipe Cleaning, Plastics Pipe Institute, Danby PVC Lining, Jim Siebert-Consultant, Boyer, InfoSense Inc., KMCE. Inc and US HYDRO VAC generously sponsored Purdue University’s student delegation’s participation in this event. These sponsorships covered the travel expenses and accommodation, allowing them to fully engage in the conference without financial concerns. The conference organizer, Underground Infrastructure Magazine, also generously provided free registration for the students. The motivations for these companies’ sponsorships include:

  • Advancing the Industry: By supporting student participation, these companies aim to promote the integration of academic research and practical applications, thus advancing the underground infrastructure industry.
  • Cultivating Future Talent: Sponsoring students provides them with first hand industry knowledge and experience, laying a solid foundation for their future careers.
  • Enhancing Brand Visibility: By sponsoring student activities, these companies enhance their visibility and reputation in the industry, demonstrating their commitment to education and industry development.
  • Fulfilling Social Responsibility: Supporting education and talent cultivation is an important aspect of corporate social responsibility, showcasing their contribution to society and industry development.
Rich Conference Activities and Interactive Engagements The three-day conference featured a tightly packed schedule, including seminars, interactive workshops, and technical demonstrations. The conference themes included asset management, risk mitigation strategies, trenchless construction methods, and the latest advancements in underground infrastructure, attracting hundreds of attendees and underscoring its significance in the industry. The one-hour seminars covered a range of topics, from small to large equipment, leak detection systems, and CIPP (Cured-In-Place Pipe) liners. Key discussion topics included asset management, preventive maintenance, and the role of women in construction. The interactive workshops provided hands-on training opportunities, allowing students to operate equipment and apply techniques in real-world scenarios. For example, the electromagnetic detection demonstration for force main pipelines showcased the latest repair methods and technologies. Over 100 exhibition booths displayed cutting-edge technologies and products in the industry, including horizontal directional drilling (HDD), wastewater management, CIPP technology, pipe repair methods, leak detection systems, and CCTV inspection. Exhibitors such as McElroy, Danby, and CPM Pipelines demonstrated their latest technologies and equipment, with some providing live demonstrations.
Student Delegation Preparation and Performance The student delegation from Purdue University, comprising 11 students from various academic backgrounds, such as civil engineering, environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering, represented the UCA and NASTT chapters. To ensure the students fully benefited from the conference, Purdue CEM & BAMI-I associations organized a series of preparatory activities:

  • Technical Training: Lectures and seminars introduced the main topics and the latest technological advancements, ensuring the students had the necessary knowledge before attending the conference.
  • Guidance and Support: Professors Tom Iseley and Wei Liao as well as student leader Priyanka Kiran Andhale provided comprehensive guidance and support, maintaining close contact with the students, ensuring their smooth participation in various activities, and offering timely assistance and advice.

Through these preparations, the students gained a thorough understanding of the conference content and enhanced their overall capabilities, laying a solid foundation for active participation and learning during the conference.

Student Gains and Industry Impact By attending the 2024 Underground Infrastructure Conference, Purdue University students gained valuable knowledge and experience, including: 1. Enhanced Technical Knowledge:

  • Students attended multiple lectures and seminars on the latest technologies and practices. For example, Harsh Badole reported that students learned about drone technology for inspecting narrow and hazardous underground spaces, which could revolutionize maintenance and safety protocols.
  • Sihan Zhou attended a session on CIPP (Cured-In-Place Pipe) air emissions, learning about monitoring and protection measures for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  1. Practical Experience:
  • Students participated in various interactive workshops and technical demonstrations, gaining hands-on experience with new software tools and equipment. Venkata Chapala mentioned that the conference showcased the latest trenchless technologies and microtunneling projects, providing deeper insights into their practical applications.
  • Mahnoush Mohseni noted that students interacted with companies demonstrating innovative technologies such as acoustic sensing and pipe penetrating radar (PPR).
  1. Professional Development and Networking:
  • Students engaged extensively with industry professionals, building valuable networks. Dhiraj Lalwani mentioned discussions with company representatives and experts on the latest advancements in trenchless technology and asset management.
  • Rushabh Patil emphasized the numerous networking opportunities provided by the conference, helping students connect with peers and industry leaders.
  • Supporting students’ participation in the conference positively impacted the industry by:
  1. Integrating Academia and Practice:
  • The conference provided a platform for students and industry professionals to discuss the latest technologies and best practices, promoting the integration of academic research and practical applications. Priyanka Andhale’s report highlighted discussions on asset management and risk mitigation strategies, offering valuable knowledge and practical experience.
  1. Driving Technological Innovation:
  • The conference showcased cutting-edge technologies such as automated drones, acoustic sensing, and pipe penetrating radar (PPR), which enhance underground infrastructure maintenance and management efficiency. Harsh Badole mentioned the potential revolutionary impact of drone technology on underground space maintenance.
Looking Ahead The knowledge and experience gained from this conference will inspire students to apply advanced technologies and methods in future projects, promoting continuous innovation and development in the underground infrastructure field. The valuable lessons learned will help optimize and improve the organization and management of future student participation in such events. Overall, the 2024 UIC Purdue Student trip was not only a feast of knowledge but also a milestone in career development. The students’ rich harvest from this conference will undoubtedly contribute to their future work and studies, making meaningful contributions to the industry’s development. Special Thanks “We are very grateful for the generous support from all the sponsors, which made our participation in this conference possible,” Sihan Zhou mentioned in his report. “Without your support, this valuable learning opportunity would not have been possible.” Dhiraj Lalwani expressed similar gratitude: “The conference not only enhanced my understanding of underground infrastructure challenges and solutions but also expanded my professional network. The connections made during this event will have a profound impact on my future career development.” Special thanks to Purdue University’s UCA and NASTT chapters and all the generous sponsors of this event, including Underground Infrastructure Magazine, CPM Pipelines, Midwest Mole, Ace Pipe Cleaning, Plastics Pipe Institute, Danby PVC Lining, Jim Siebert-Consultant, Boyer, InfoSense Inc., KMCE. Inc and US HYDRO VAC. Your support made this invaluable learning opportunity possible and provided a solid foundation for the students’ professional development.