Tunneller honoured at gala event
Tunneller honoured at gala event Apr 2009
It was an evening to rival the Oscars and the stars of the show were the engineers and scientists awarded the 2009 medals of recognition from the Benjamin Franklin Institute. Among the eight recipients of awards was our own Dick Robbins, a worthy winner of the 2009 Medal in Engineering. Dick's nomination for this prestigious award recognized his contribution to the development of mechanized TBM tunneling.
Dick Robbins receives his award

Dick Robbins receiving his award

The black tie event on Thursday evening, 23 April in Philadelphia was the culmination of a week's worth of seminars and workshops that celebrated the achievements of the 2009 laureates and introduced their topics of expertise to a wider audience. A workshop on Thursday morning at the Villanova University in Philadelphia presented the history, evolution and recent revolution in TBM tunneling. Shani Wallis, Editor of TunnelTalk, was honoured to be part of the proceedings as one of the presenters on the workshop panel and as an invited guest at the gala medal presentations dinner in the Franklin Memorial Hall in the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia.

Chief Science and Health Correspondent for NBC News, Robert Bazell, hosted the ceremony at which Marsha Perelman of the Institute and Dr. Dennis Wint, its President and CEO officiated. Along with Dick Robbins the other medal winners for 2009 are: Lotfi A. Zadeh for the Medal in Electrical Engineering and his invention of 'fuzzy logic'; George M. Whitesides for the Medal in Chemistry for his work in the field of molecular self-assembly; Ruzena Bajcsy for the Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science for her contributions to robotics and computer vision; J. Frederick Grassle for the Medal in Earth and Environmental Science for pioneering research of ecosystems near volcanic vents at the sea floor; and Stephen J. Benkovic for the Medal in Life Science for helping to unravel the enzymes involved in DNA replication. T. Boone Pickens received the Bower Award for Business Leadership to recognise his recent focus on domestic renewable energy, and Sandra M. Faber received the 2009 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science for advancing the knowledge of distant galaxies, dark matter, and large-scale structures of the Universe. Video biographies of the 2009 laureates are available on the Institue's website.
Glittering awards ceremony

Glittering awards ceremony

As one of the oldest and most prestigious comprehensive science and technology awards programs in the world, older than the Nobel Prize awards, previous Franklin Institute Laureates include luminaries such as Marie and Pierre Curie, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, Benoit Mandelbrot, Gordon Moore, Steven Squyres, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Since its inception in 1824, the Awards Program has honored thousands of scientists, engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs.
In being part of these presentation occasions, when tunnelling is being explained and discussed outside the confines of the industry, the urgent need for better promotion of industry is evident, the need to engage the general public, and perhaps more importantly, the student body more successfully to raise awareness of the vital need of underground infrastructure and its role in sustaining our societies into the future.
Benjamin Franklin Institute
The 2009 Franklin Award Laureates
Richard J Robbins biography video
Dick Robbins honored for TBM innovations Mar 2009
Dick Robbins, a Franklin Medal winner

Dick Robbins

Richard J. Robbins, President and CEO of The Robbins Company from 1958 to 1993 is to receive the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Medal for Engineering. Dick is being honored for his career dedication to the development of tunnel boring machine technology and the application of TBMs for some of the largest and most challenging tunneling projects in history. Dick joins an illustrious list of previous recipients including, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Stephen Hawking, and Jane Goodall.
The Franklin Institute Awards have been ongoing for 185 years, and continue to recognize the greatest men and women in science, engineering and technology. A formal awards ceremony will take place on 23 April 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, capping a week of educational presentations and activities. "When I reflect on the process of the award, and the fact that only one engineer is picked per year, I am truly honored and amazed," said Robbins.
Robbins' father, James S. Robbins, developed the first rock tunnel boring machine in 1952 and founded The Robbins Company, which is now known worldwide and has representation in more than 25 countries. Dick Robbins has been responsible for leading or creating the company's subsequent innovations, from large diameter hard rock disc cutters to the first double shield TBM for Italy's Orichella Project in 1972.
"One of the most memorable projects I've worked on is the Channel Tunnel," said Robbins. "We designed machines that successfully bored through water-bearing ground at 10 bar pressure, a much higher pressure than had ever been managed before." The 39km (24 mile) long Channel Tunnel was completed in 1991 following the use of five shielded TBMs designed by Robbins and erecting the on-pass precast concrete segmental lining as they advanced.
Another career highlight was a machine developed for the RER metro system in Paris in 1965. "We created the world's first below water, pressure bulkhead shielded machine using air pressure. This maintained the tunnel face under pressure while the rest of the tunnel remained at atmospheric pressure. All future slurry and EPB designs had their genesis in this machine."
Richard Robbins continues to work in the tunneling industry as a member of the Board of Directors of The Robbins Company and as a collaborator in development projects. He sees much work to be done in the future. "The next step," he predicts, "will be to develop designs for a wide range of geologic conditions and for standardized elements that will shorten projects and reduce capital costs."
TunnelTalk joins the international tunneling community in congratulating Dick on this much deserved recognition.


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