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Brian Gerbrandt Memorial Scholarship in Crane and Rigging Engineering

Crane Rental Association Of Canada 2016 Conference Charity of Choice Announcement:

Introduction by Darin Richards, President, Red Associates Engineering

Starting last year the Crane Rental Association of Canada began selecting charities and organizations for recognition and sponsorship at our annual convention. In your registration package this year, there was a section that offered an opportunity to contribute to the charity. The concept of the undertaking is for us as members of CRAC,  to be able give back to organizations that are important to our members.  

Each year the Chairman of the Association has the honour of selecting a charity or organization that is important to the group.  In our second year of this undertaking, our Chairman Ron Osterman has selected a special scholarship fund as our initiative.

The Brian Gerbrandt Memorial Scholarship in Crane and Rigging Engineering has been established at the University of Alberta to fund graduate level education of engineers wishing to pursue advanced education in the field of engineering.

Brian was a University if Alberta graduate from the Department of Civil Engineering and worked nearly 30 years in the crane industry.As members of this association we are very aware that it takes many people, from many different backgrounds, to make a crane rental organization successful. We need skilled crane operators, maintenance technicians, sales staff, contract managers, safety professionals, business managers and engineers, to just name a few, to contribute to the safety and professionalism of our industry across Canada.

Our organizations strive to seek out  continuing education opportunities for our team. For engineers, there is no place to get specific technical engineering training about cranes and rigging. Engineers have to learn and adapt on the job. This scholarship opportunity gives engineers an avenue to get that advanced training. By supporting this scholarship fund, you will be helping to carry on the advancement of engineering as it relates to our industry.

Each year, the fund will be able to award an annual scholarship award of $5000 to support studies in Crane and Rigging Engineering. What kinds of things can be pursued under this scholarship fund?

-       Administered under the department of Civil Engineering at U of A

-       The university evaluates each scholarship application for the applicability to their crane and rigging industry

-       Examples could include:  

  • Studies of axle weights on roads and highways
  • Geotechnical studies on typical ground conditions and preparation techniques for temporary crane installations
  • Project management and and crane utilization techniques on industrial construction projects
  • Specialized rigging designs and lift systems
  • Safety and loss management studies in the construction industry

Our industry has seen a lot of innovations to make lifts safer and more efficient.

  • Modular spreader bars. Capacities to 500,000 pounds at a 75 foot spread      
  • Module lifting frames – hydraulically adjustable and adaptable to minimize changing the rigging multiple times  to correct for centre of gravity= higher efficiency and crane utilization on projects
  • Crane utilization and planning software to streamline crane utilization and productivity

Brian had a hand in all of these things I have mentioned. He even has a special rigging design named after him. You know when you are lifting some thing that needs to be level and sometimes you add as shackle to the end of a sling to try and level the load?  Then maybe have to add another shackle? And another shackle? Well, Brian was designing a lift and we needed to make up some sling length on one side so on the engineered study, he had a string of 8 or 10, 55- ton shackles pinned directly to other to try and get the load to pick level. Our boss at the time took one look at it and “ here we go again, another Gerbrandt Necklace” that name stuck with him and I still call it that today. Now when we have time we use turnbuckles, or link plates. But sometimes, you can't beat a good Gerbrandt Necklace

Brian was also enjoyed getting out to the field and working with the crane operators and riggers to get the lift done. It's always a great at way to see how the design on paper gets carried out in the field. Brian was popular with the heavy lift team at Sterling. A his enthusiasm and infectious chuckle earned him the nick name of ” Goober” with the crew. Brian could be found right in there with the heavy lift team pretty much any time he could get away from the office.

Some interesting projects Brian enjoyed included:           

  • Working with NASA in the early nineties to come up with rescue plans should the space shuttle have to make an emergency landing anywhere in Western Canada, Washington, Idaho or Montana
  • High capacity, extremely tight tolerance lifts at a pulp mill. This without all the special instrumentation and cameras we have today.
  • Leading the heavy lift planning of four massive coke drums for the Suncor  Millennium project

Brian was a passionate and very dedicated engineer in our industry. His career in the crane and lift industry began in the late eighties. He began with Sterling Crane and other stops in his career took him to Fluor Constructors, PCL Industrial Construction and Mammoet.

He was instrumental in the development CSA Z150 safety code for mobile cranes  as well and was instrumental in changes in Alberta Occupational Heath & Safety regarding 10 yr boom inspections. Many many of us here tonight had the pleasure of working with Brian as a colleague;  a supplier; a mentor; a competitor; a customer; and for me a friend.  

I think you would all agree, he is missed and regularly thought about in our industry. Tonight we have invited Brian’s wife Susan to join us at the convention and you like to invite her up to speak to you about Brian and this scholarship fund."

Proudly Susan Gerbrandt addressed the CRAC conference attendees:

Thank you for the the opportunity to join you today and talk about Brian and the scholarship.

It was actually at the CRAC conference in Banff at the Rimrock Hotel that I understood how much Brian truly loved cranes and being a part of the crane industry.  I joined him for an evening at the event and saw how much he enjoyed talking with everyone about cranes and what was happening in the 

Canadian industry and plans for the future.  Before my very eyes a man who conversed as most people do in social situations became a “chatty cathy” talking enthusiastically for hours about cranes and loving every minute of it.

Prior to the conference I definitely knew cranes were a “magnet” for Brian.  When Brian was driving my concern wasn’t cell phones but cranes!  He was a very good driver but once a crane, old or new, came into view he was looking up more than he was looking ahead!   When out riding our bikes or driving, if we were near a yard with cranes we would inevitably detour to “check out the yard”.  On a few holidays we had personal tours of a crane factory or business when we were “in the area”.   Brian was in “seventh heaven” and I learned a great deal, and got an appreciation for an industry I didn’t even know existed prior to meeting Brian.

During his career Brian worked for and with a number of different crane and construction companies.  There were many long hours, including weekends planning the transportation of vessels or doing lifts and whenever possible being on-site, to experience it first-hand.   When he returned he would be pumped, having enjoyed seeing good engineering and enjoying the company of his colleagues.   Time dedicated to cranes was time well spent.

However time spent looking for good people to be part of his engineering team was another matter entirely.   He bemoaned the time and effort involved in just finding potential people.  Over the years I was amazed at how small a pool of candidates was available within Alberta and even Canada!   However, once hired he enjoyed mentoring his team and over the years see them grow, excel and advance either within the company or elsewhere. 

When Brian died so suddenly it was inconceivable that such a strong, person with so much energy could be gone, that his bright future was not to be.   Out of that despair came the idea of a scholarship.  A scholarship that in so many ways would benefit what he loved; his university the UofA, the city of Edmonton and future engineers who would pursue studies that required cranes, and I hope ultimately those engineers in turn will bring their enhanced crane and rigging knowledge and skillsets to the crane industry in Alberta and hopefully Canada, as well.   

Initially it was just an idea.  It became a lifeline that gave me a purpose and goal to achieve.   I spoke to friends and family about the idea.    They were surprised and probably doubtful, thinking nothing would come of it.  One friend, Darin Richards listened, thought it was worthwhile and encouraged me to pursue it and offered his help.   I did some research and then contacted the university to see if it was possible.  The faculty of engineering reviewed my proposal and gave it their approval.

With that initial approval Marie from the Office of Individual Giving walked me through the process of finalizing the details of the scholarship.   The biggest question was “who” should the scholarship award.  Which students would best be served by the scholarship and, who, in then in turn would benefit the crane & rigging community.   Darin helped resolve those critical questions and the application was submitted.   It was approved, the seed money accepted, and the Brian Gerbrandt  Memorial Graduate Scholarship in Engineering was created.The scholarship was created to last in perpetuity.  It will be administered by the university/Engineering department.  Additional donations will allow larger awards to graduate students as well as provide the potential of awarding more than 1 student annually.

I would like to thank you all for allowing me to speak to you about Brian and the scholarship.   Thank you very much Ron Ostermann and the Board for selecting the scholarship as the donation beneficiary  of this year’s CRAC conference.   

The Brian Gerbrandt Scholarship in Crane and Rigging Engineering Scholarship’s eligibility will be awarded on the basis of superior academic achievement to students registered full-time in the first year of a Master of Science degree program in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering who are pursuing studies in crane and rigging, heavy construction, structure erection, assembling, connection or lifting. 



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