Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Future City Competition

Volunteers Dave Mennenga, Tim Ross and Dennis Cantrell.

GBA participated in this year’s Great Plains Region Future City Competition held in Manhattan, KS on Saturday January 24th.  61 teams from 39 schools  participated in this years’ event.  GBA sponsored an award in the essay portion of the competition for Best Technical Writing.

During the fall semester, Future City teams work on a variety of tasks, and then compete at the regional competition in January.  This year the event was  held on the campus of Kansas State University.    Each team does a research paper and writes an essay and a narrative. They also develop a Sim City model, as well as a physical model that they take to the competition.  On the day of the competition each team presents their concepts for an amazing city in the future to a panel of volunteer judges who then rank teams to help determine the ultimate winner.

This year the winning team was from Southwest Middle School in Lawrence, KS.  The GBA award for best technical writing went to the team from Republic County USD 109 in Belleville, KS.   The name of their future city was “Agritopia”.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

GBA Brought Christmas to Newhouse

Volunteers spreading joy at NewHouse.
The holiday season was brighter at NewHouse through the efforts of GBA. Company employees donated a variety of items (electronics, household goods, clothing, toys, and more) to the domestic violence shelter that accommodates women and children. The gifts were set up in the Christmas store where women and children shopped for one another. After the shopping excursion, the gifts were wrapped and put under a tree for Christmas morning!

Founded in 1971, NewHouse’s mission is to “Break the cycle of domestic violence by providing the tools that allow women and children to make positive choices and lead self-sustaining lives.”

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Tips

‘Tis the season for holiday decorating and family gatherings with too much food.  If deep down you identify with Clark Griswald when hanging a bit too many lights on your abode or must prepare the perfect dinner for the “little piggies” in your life like Mother Parker from A Christmas Story, we want to offer a few reminders so you can live to tell the stories!

1.  Live trees literally look for ways to burn to the ground.
Okay, that may be a stretch.  However, as real trees become more popular amongst younger generations that grew up with all things artificial, we encourage you to place that tree as far away from the fireplace and heaters as possible and don’t put evergreen fragrance candles anywhere nearby.  Make sure you check and add water daily and remove the tree from the property as soon as possible after the holidays.

2.  Hanging lights can be hazardous to your health.
Falling off ladders and roofs or getting electrocuted are not the greatest ways to start the season.  We recommend hiring the professionals (always make sure they are insured).  If you opt to engineer and construct your own exterior illumination, we recommend you strictly follow the lighting instructions.  Leave the Stanley® stapler in the tool box and hang with approved attachments.  Make sure the lights are specifically indicated for outdoor use and don’t string more than specified for a single electrical outlet.

3.  Though tasty, preparing fried turkey is the most hazardous activity since fire was invented.
Who could imagine dropping a cold wet turkey into a hot oil bath over an open flame would be a recipe for an explosion.  Make sure your turkey is thawed before slowly lowering it into the oil, that is after you have double checked for the proper quantity of oil.  Always fry your turkey on a flat stable surface, like your front driveway, so all the neighbors marvel at your extraordinary skills and secretly ruminate with jealousy.  And of course, never fry in the garage or on a deck.

So as you hang your stockings, we strongly suggest you remove the fake tree smelling candle from the mantle so you can enjoy the much anticipated visit from Santa Claus, instead of the fire department after your candle charred the holiday swag you lovingly adorned on that mantle with care. 

Happy Holidays from GBA!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Winter’s toll on the Roads

Winter is a tough season on anything exposed to the elements. Plants die. Animals hibernate. Waterways get caught in a messy game of freeze and thaw.

But our roads also bear winter’s brunt.

And it’s not snow and ice that are the biggest problem—it’s what we do to remove them.

Winter moisture alone already does a number on concrete by itself, as water—snow melt, sleet, runoff—expands 9 percent its original size when frozen. That means when concrete freezes, any moisture in the concrete can create pressure in the pores of the concrete. When this pressure exceeds the concrete’s tensile capacity, it causes cracking and spalling of the concrete surface.

If large aggregate in the concrete is porous or absorptive, the moisture in the aggregate can freeze and crack and split. If these aggregates are close to the surface, they can create pop outs that look like cone shaped indentions on the surface of the concrete. This cracking can also create D-cracking, which is closely spaced cracks that parallel joints. These cracks will continue to multiply over time and show up further and further from the joint.

Deicing chemicals can make this process worse in different ways.

First, the deicing chemicals reduce the freezing temperature of the offending moisture. So rather than the moisture in the concrete freezing at 32 degrees and staying frozen until the concrete temperature exceeds 32 degrees, it thaws at a lower temperature and refreezes at a lower temperature. Therefore, the concrete goes thru more freeze/thaw cycles than it would have if deicing chemicals were not used. Each time the concrete freezes, it repeats the expansion pressure that can create more cracking and spalling.

Most deicing chemicals contain chlorides. These chlorides are like sponges that attract and hold moisture. Therefore, concrete that is more saturated with chlorides is probably more saturated with moisture and thus more susceptible to damage when the concrete freezes.

Even worse, certain deicing chemicals can actually chemically attack concrete. Deicers containing ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate aggressively attack and disintegrate concrete.

But that’s not where the wear and tear stops. The same chlorides that weaken concrete also bombard metal with enough moisture that it will rust—a huge problem when you’re talking about concrete reinforced with metal. When metal rusts, the rust can become four times larger than the original metal, causing the concrete it is reinforcing to expand and crack. And once this process starts, both the concrete and the steel deteriorate even faster than before.

There are various ways to protect concrete and steel from winter’s ways—air entrainment, low permeability in concrete, etc.—but the best thing for our roads can hope for in the winter? No moisture.

Let it snow? Not if you’re a road.

Monday, November 24, 2014

GBA Kicks Off Wellness Program

After starting our initiative this past summer with an on-site health screening, our team members were then invited to participate in a Health Risk Assessment (HRA).  With a FANTASTIC response and participation rate, in August St. Lukes Health helped us compile the results.  We were happy to find that while we are a pretty healthy group, there were three main health issues team members wanted to address:  1)  Physical Activity/ Exercise, 2) Diet/ Nutrition and 3) Stress Relief. 

The Wellness Committee (comprised of employees from around the company) decided to launch our program with a healthy lunch and give away GBA water bottles.  Inside the bottle was a note with all the benefits of staying well hydrated.  We also offered at that time for team members and their spouses to purchase an activity tracker (Fit Bit) at a reduced rate.  They could then take an eight-week “Step Challenge” and have the opportunity to earn back the cost of the devise at two different levels.  The goal is 7,000 steps a day!

We have over half of our team members and many of their spouses participating in multiple locations.  We’re broken up into teams to help create fun competition and motivation.   We are half way through the challenge and having a lot of fun with it!  The idea is to get people to realize that if they just keep moving, they can reach their extended goal of 10,000 steps/day.  AND we are creating some healthy new habits along the way– Like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. 

Stay tuned for our next Wellness initiative  - Financial Fitness, which helps to reduce stress. (especially after the holidays!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GIS Day is November 19

GIS Day is a grassroots event to celebrate the practice of geographic information systems (GIS) users and to showcase real-world applications of this important technology. This year GIS Day is November 19 and is principally sponsored by the National Geographic Society and other professional organizations and companies.

GBA's Leonard Barnhill and Ben Grover are GIS Specialists.
GIS professionals take complex data to create databases and maps that benefit communities. GIS maps can show land usage, infrastructure location, public utilities, emergency services, road type and pavement condition, tax rate and other parcel information, lot measurements; permits issued, FEMA DFirms and more. GIS is an important asset management tool for governments and businesses.

The history of GIS Day dates back to 1999 and has grown into a worldwide educational event.