Stevenson Creek Test Dam Technology

New technology can be the key to obtaining more accurate results in the laboratory and the field. Some make large impacts and allow for a multitude of new information to be discovered such as the computer, electron microscope, and the Large Hadron Collider to name a few modern examples. In the engineering field, it is important to perform quality assurance on all materials and structures using the most accurate equipment to ensure safety and efficiency. This is just what was done on the Stevenson Creek Test Dam.

The Stevenson Creek Test Dam was a full scale test of an arch dam on Stevenson Creek near Fresno, California. The testing conducted was meant to help support the use of thinner arch dams instead of gravity dams in the United States. Willis Slater, a future Lehigh University professor and Director of Fritz Engineering Laboratory, was chosen to oversee the experimentation done on the dam. The experiments chosen by Slater and his peers are representative of the shift of engineering testing equipment from hand and eye measurements to more automated and electronic recording.

In Lehigh University’s Special Collections, there are four boxes holding many of Willis Slater’s work. In the memorandum of the Committee on Arch Dam Investigation, there is an outline of the tests and technology that will be used for the test dam. New strain gauges designed by H.L. Whittemore, electric telemeters created by O.S. Peters, and towers to measure deflection using micrometer screws and electric contacts, a design by Col. G.S. Binckley, were a few of the new developments that were being used in these tests. These were used along with more low technology such as thermometers and clinometers in order to achieve the most accurate results.Stevenson Creek Dam Tech

To see the results of the Stevenson Creek Dam tests or read more on Willis Slater’s research and life, go to Lehigh University Special Collections online or in person to request to see the collection.

By Kevin Augustyn

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