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Mexico City Reconnaissance

Rachel Chandler's Mexico City Reconnaissance Journal

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Fourth-year undergraduate ARCE student Rachel Chandler is traveling to Mexico City to perform earthquake reconnaissance work from October 28 – November 4, 2017. There she will examine damaged structures after the recent 7.1 earthquake.  Her personal accounts throughout the week will be recorded here on a day by day basis.  


The journey began in early October 2017 when assistant professor Anahid Behrouzi was asked by Purdue professor Santiago Pujol to collaborate in a National Science Foundation (NSF) RAPID grant. The objective was to send a team to study reinforced concrete building damage in Mexico after the recent September earthquakes. After continuous communication between the teams at Purdue, Cal Poly, University of Alabama, University of Buffalo, UC-San Diego, and the NSF Programs manager, the project recieved pre-approval and the reconnaissance was in full swing!  

Dr. Behrouzi notified Rachel Chandler of the opportunity and without a second thought she was on-board for a prospective date to ship out to Mexico City on October 28, 2017, for a week.  With dreams of becoming an engineer that supports seismic design and natural disaster recovery in developing nations, Rachel knew this could be a career game-changer. By the end of the day she had made arrangements with all her professors and on-campus employer to carve out time for reconnaissance. Preparing to take time away from campus during Week 7 of the strenuous ARCE senior schedule is no small feat.

A busy week passed of procuring documents for an expedited travel approval from the International Studies office; gathering and purchasing reconnaissance tools; booking flights, shuttles, and hotel; securing a mentor – Degenkolb design engineer and Cal Poly alumni, Garrett Hagen- to accompany her into the field.  

Below are her accounts of the process including her observations of reinforced concrete damage, community recovery, and cultural experiences.  

Day 1: Arrival in Mexico City

Day 2: Initial Wandering and Structural Damage Observations

Day 3: Successful Retrofitting Following 1985 Earthquake & Lessons on Cracking

Day 4: Journeying Futher South

Day 5: Pounding Damage Everywhere

Day 6: Short Stories & Poor Building Configurations

Day 7: Final Round


In particular, thanks go to all of Rachel's on-the-ground reconnaissance mentors and team collaborators:

  • Garrett Hagen, Design Engineer at Degenkolb Engineers
  • Sergio Breña, Professor at University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • Michael Kreger, Chair & Professor at University of Alabama
  • Mario Rodriguez, Professor at Universidad Nacional Autónama de México (UNAM)
  • Shane Crawford, Doctoral Student at University of Alabama 

We'd like to give a huge shout-out to everyone at Cal Poly. Thank you International Studies Office (Cari Vanderkar Moore and Azucena Perez) and Cal Poly Grants Office (Trish Brock and Susanne Gartner), as well as Al Estes, Mark Cabrinha, Erika Clements, Adriana Sousa for your help!


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