"Teaching is Learning Again"

June 24, 2022

David Streeter, Rock Mechanics Lab Manager

David Streeter

In the basement of the Mines and Metallurgy Building, there’s a lab known to many students and community members of the University of Arizona. “Go see David!” said David Streeter, describing how often students are referred to his expertise on how to set up testing for Rock Mechanics.

Streeter has been in the mining industry for years, but originally served in the Air Force with an electronics and  aircraft maintenance background. After retiring from the Air Force he worked for Caterpillar as a Service Manager and later for Call and Nicholas, a Tucson-based mining consultant firm contracting with the University's Department of Mining and Geological Engineering, eventually staying on at the University to manage their Rock Mechanics Lab after years of experience testing samples from Call and Nicholas.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had… teaching is learning again,” said Streeter. Streeter teaches the laboratory portion of “Geomechanics” and “Mine Tailings” courses where students learn how to analyze cores and soil samples in a variety of ways using numerous pieces of equipment that Streeter maintains and calibrates.

Preparing students for real life

Streeter says that students learn that data is one of the most important items in a lab and mining industry. He engages with Undergraduate, Graduate, and Post-doc students in their journey of understanding and performing research. He teaches them how to keep a clean lab, do precise research on the samples they are given, with applicable results that apply to the real world.

In the lab, he uses core samples provided by the mining concerns or locally cast to simulate core samples taken from interstate roadways or other structures. The compression tests will determine if the structures can withstand being stressed. Much of Streeter’s work applies to real life experiences, and helps students understand the importance of stable rock slopes, properly compressed soil, safely constructed mine structures/buildings, and equipment maintenance. Often, student final reports from the course are given to the companies who provide samples where they can use these results in actual commercial ways. The course and the real testing done by students always follow ASTM guidelines.

Streeter prioritizes safety and consideration for the environment in his work and hopes students come away from interactions feeling prepared to enter the industry, valuing data collection and ready to ask questions of the world around them. He emphasizes that course participants develop a critical view of data and its accuracy.

While the industry is constantly expanding, Streeter hopes this course will always be a part of the curriculum offered at the University of Arizona, because according to him: “Any mining engineer should take the course!”

Courses mentioned in this article

MNE 427-527 – Geomechanics
MNE 417-517L – Tailings Storage Facility Design (Planning, Design and Analysis)

For course descriptions, refer to course catalog.