The ASCE Geotechnical Group was formed in fall 1993. It was composed of geotechnical engineers and geologists who wanted to provide local learning opportunities within the Geosciences. Lok Sharma, of Terracon Consultants, was the visionary and early leader of this effort, after a pause in the annual geotechnical conference at the University of Kansas. The team included professionals from (1) American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Kansas City Section, (2) Association of Engineering Geologists (AEG), Kansas City-Omaha Section, and (3) University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) Departments of Geology and Civil Engineering. The group organized evening technical seminars, construction site visits, conferences and specialty seminars that have continued for 30 years.
The first Annual Kansas City Geotechnical Conference was held on April 9, 1994 at the UMKC Pierson Auditorium. It was a half-day event held on a Saturday. Speakers representing geologists and engineers from consulting firms and academia covered a variety of topics of local interest. The initial conference was well attended, attracting approximately 75 participants.
In January 2001, an additional all-day specialty seminar was added to the annual schedule. The concept was to devote the entire day to an in-depth study of a single topic, facilitated by experts from across the nation. The first specialty seminar covered drilled shaft foundations. Subsequent topics included slope stability, micro piles, dams and levees, seismicity, ground Improvement, and settlement (to name a few).
The group was formally incorporated as the Geo-Institute, Kansas City Chapter in 2018, with Joe Waxse serving as the first chairman. The Geo-Institute is one of ASCE’s society-wide specialty institutes and consists of more than 11,000 members and 65 professional organizations. The Chapter continued its long-standing partnership with AEG and UMKC, and expanded collaboration to include University of Kansas, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering.
The Geo-Institute, Kansas City Chapter funds endowment programs at both the University of Missouri - Kansas City and the University of Kansas.
The “Peck-Williams-Garstang Scholarship Endowment Program” was initiated at UMKC in 2001, named after that year’s annual conference keynote speakers. Craig Buhr, Burns & McDonnell, was the driving force in this effort and worked tirelessly to overcome administrative challenges. The endowment provides scholarships for both Civil Engineering students with geotechnical interests and Earth and Environmental Science – Geology students. The fund has grown to over $200,000 and provided scholarships to dozens of students since its inception.
The Chapter initiated a similar program with the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas, and formally established the “Kansas City Geo-Institute Student Support Fund” in 2019. The fund targets scholarships for Geotechnical Engineering students. It has already grown to over $50,000 and has begun to provide scholarships over the last few years.
The Chapter enjoys strong relationships with local universities and considers both programs a huge and lasting success!