This award funds a workshop on Bio-inspired technologies in the general field of geotechnical engineering. The workshop will be held in Pacific Grove, California, on May 19-22, 2019. The rapidly emerging discipline of biogeotechnics is comprised of both bio-mediated and bio-inspired technologies. Bio-mediated technologies, such as microbially induced calcite precipitation (MICP) to cement sands, have been the primary focus over the past decade and have seen exponential growth. Active research in the field now exists in more than 15 countries, companies have been founded, and national research centers have been established. A new workforce has been created, with graduates working in the biogeotechnics field in both and industry. Bio-inspired geotechnics, the complimentary aspect of biogeotechnics, however, is in its infancy. This field is at a critical, formative stage. The basal definition and scope of the field is being defined. Specific areas that hold exceptional promise for research are being identified. Understanding and filtering through the broader field of bio-inspired engineering and design (or biomimicry), which itself has largely become established in only the last decade, is underway. Conversations with the geotechnical industry regarding what might be practically possible are just beginning. The bio-inspired geotechnics field is at a time when an international, interdisciplinary workshop could accelerate growth and define future directions. Therefore, the objectives of the workshop are to begin building interdisciplinary collaborations, identify research priorities and possible funding sources, engage with industry regarding implementability, and identify and address the educational needs of researchers entering the field and engineers entering the workforce.
This workshop will bring together approximately 55 individual experts from academia and industry who are technically and demographically diverse, and collectively cover expertise in fields from geotechnical engineering to biology to soft robotics. The workshop participants will include established senior investigators through assistant professors and underrepresented graduate students. The workshop will be held over a period of three days at an inclusive meeting facility that will facilitate continuous planned formal workshop activities as well as informal interactions. The workshop has been carefully designed in a structure that will scaffold, or gradually build, from developing a mutual foundation of discipline understanding, to sharing current research and brainstorming new opportunities, to identifying the necessary "action items" or developmental steps required to mature this field. An informal environment that fosters discussion, brainstorming, free sharing of ideas, and development of collaboration relationships has been incorporated into the workshop agenda.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.