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Memoirs of the First Forty Years, by Dan H. Pletta




James Michalos Three Dimensional Analysis of Curved Elastic Rings and Rigid Frames
Nathan M. Newmark Design of Structures for Blast Loading
Paul S. Symonds Plastic Design of Rigid Frames and Slabs
Alfred M. Freudenthal Thermodynamic Effects on Stress Analysis and Plastic Properties of Materials

This 1954 Conference lasted only three days because it was planned as a continuing education sequence for engineering practitioners. A total of 70 attended, many of whom stayed in dormitory rooms for $1 a night and ate meals in the college dining halls or at the Faculty Center which cost $.60 a piece. A modest $20 fee was charged for admission, but this covered honoraria for the speakers and the 48 page Conference Proceedings which was published as a VPI Engineering Experimentation Bulletin (Vol. XLIX, No. 3 - Part 1). Like so many educational conferences, this 1954 effort could never have been held had it not been for the extra funds supplied by the VPI Educational Foundation, by two Virginia consulting firms: Hayes, Seay Mattern and Mattern of Roanoke; and Lublin, McGaughy and Associates of Norfolk, and the services donated by the loyal departmental staff.

These two early VPI departmental conferences received sufficient national acclaim so that they were followed by a series of others that began to attract world-wide attention. The first of these in 1961 was a two-week sequence devoted to space exploration arranged by the departments of engineering mechanics, aeronautical engineering, and physics. It was supported generously by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and by the Langley Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). These funds were restricted almost entirely to travel expenses of the 34 speakers, including one from Australia, and the 100 invited faculty participants from American and Canadian universities, and for publishing the proceedings. These two VPI Engineering Experiment Station Bulletins (Vol. LV, No. 9 & 10), included 622 pages and were divided into Physics of the Solar System and Reentry Dynamics. Over 200 participants attended including 3 from national news services, 15 from industry, 11 from NASA and NOL, etc.

The growth in size and prestige of these 1961-64 Conferences was accompanied by some increase in administrative red-tape. It was discovered that some Federal employees who were Conference speakers at the 1961 Conference were ineligible to receive the uniform $150 honoraria and they were required to return the checks. The scope of the conference was too ambitious. Four, two-hour long sessions, were scheduled Monday through Friday in both solar physics and reentry dynamics. Hour-long lectures and their hour-long discussion periods were staggered so that individuals could attend as many as eight lectures a day or visit the local slip ring manufacturing plant of the Polyscientific Corporation. Attendance, which at the opening sessions filled rooms almost to their capacity, gradually dwindled to about one-third midway of the second week. People became too saturated.

By 1961, inflation was noticeable. Dormitory rooms now cost $3.00 per night for single and $2.50 each for double occupancy, and meals had increased from a fixed $.50 each to those which varied from $.70 to $1.50. Motel rooms then cost from $5 to $7 for single rooms.

These foregoing and subsequent conferences are listed in Table IV.


Date Sponsor Title Volumes Pages
1950 GEB* Modern Developments in Design (6 weeks) -- --
1954 Industry New Developments in Engineering Design 1 48
1961 NSF-NASA Physics of the Solar System and Reentry Dynamics 1 622
1962** NSF-NASA Lunar Exploration 3 540
1963** NSF-NASA Artificial Satellites 3 600
1964** NSF-NASA The Role of Simulation in Space Technology 5 1300
1965-70 NSF Recent Developments in Continuous Media (6 weeks) -- --
1970 Humble Ed. Fdn. Engineering Mechanics and Industry Interface 1 --

*General Education Board
**Also sponsored by other departments of physics, aeronautical engineering, materials science, etc.

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