Out of the classroom and into the field

81 fourth-year civil and environmental engineering students took a tour of the Gardiner Dam on Friday October 3, 2014

81 fourth-year civil and environmental engineering students took a tour of the Gardiner Dam on Friday October 3, 2014

Another generous donation from Jack Mollard (BE ’45) gave over 80 fourth year civil and environmental engineering students a chance to get out of the classroom and into the field.

The Dr. J.D. (Jack) Mollard Gardiner Dam and Area Field Trip was established shortly after the success of the Dr. Jack Mollard Sensing the Earth Tour, which takes second year civil, geological and environmental engineering students to a half dozen geologically significant sites between Saskatoon and North Battleford.  “One week after the inaugural Sensing the Earth Tour, Dr. Mollard called the college and said that he wanted to consider providing funds for the department’s annual tour to Gardiner Dam,” recalls Jim Kells (BE ’77, MSc ’80, PhD ’95), a professor in the Department of Civil & Geological Engineering with a smile.  “The Gardiner Dam project was one of Dr. Mollard’s first projects after completing his Master’s degree in 1947.  He was involved with the assessment of the site that was ultimately selected for the dam location and thus the project has special significance for him.”

This year’s field trip took place on October 3, 2014. Throughout the day, students learned first-hand the importance of Saskatchewan’s glaciated landscape on engineering projects; specifically the unique soil and landscape conditions associated with Gardiner Dam. The trip grew out of Mollard’s desire to share his knowledge and passion with university students.  “My objective and motive has been to aid the University of Saskatchewan financially and to provide students in civil, geological and environmental engineering an opportunity to get to the field and see some of the things they are working on in the classroom,” says Mollard.

Professor Kells, who organized the field trip, couldn’t agree more saying, “One of the goals our department has is to get every student in every year of each of our three programs out in to the field on a minimum of one field trip.”  This dedication to field experience is an important one for the college and an investment that is already paying off with students.  “When I become an engineer, my most valuable quality will not be my technical skills, it will be my field experience,” says Ryan Scott, a student who participated in the trip this fall.  “The incredible complexity and size of such a massive project could not be understood from pictures or videos.  To see the scale and how many different professional skills can be involved in the construction of a project like Gardiner Dam is a great experience.”

Standing 64 metres tall and stretching 5,000 metres long, Gardiner Dam took nine years to build and is the third largest earthfill dam in Canada and one of the largest of its kind in the world.  The dam regulates flows in the South Saskatchewan River and, along with its companion, Qu’Appelle Dam, forms Lake Diefenbaker, the largest body of water in southern Saskatchewan.