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When Ohio Courthouse Couldn't Find Its Time Capsule, It Called Upon NKU

When the Federal Bankruptcy Courthouse in Dayton, OH decided to commemorate their 100 year anniversary by opening a time capsule stored in the cornerstone of their building, they had a pretty big problem ahead of them.  They weren’t sure exactly where the time capsule was inside the nearly fifteen square-foot cornerstone. They reached out to NKU professor Thomas Brackman, M.S., P.G., for assistance finding the time capsule.

Brackman offered the project to three NKU students and geology majors – Bryce Hamilton, Brad Vogelpohl, and Alan Vennemann. Using information about the cornerstone, the students put together a proposal to use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to locate the time capsule inside the wall.

GPR is a geophysical method in which radio waves are used to map subsurface objects and boundaries. The method is an effective way of mapping interfaces between subsurface materials. Using the GPR, the students hoped to determine the location of any anomalies in the wall, distinguishing between the granite slab and the copper time capsule.

On October 15, 2014, the students conducted the GPR survey. The area of investigation consisted of a granite slab backed by brick masonry. Hamilton, Volgelpohl, and Vennemann used a 500 MHz antenna to collect a high resolution signal along the front face of the granite slab. The data they collected was available in real-time via a monitor. The three students detected an anomaly in the upper corner of the north-facing wall of the cornerstone. The intensity of the anomaly correlated with certain man-made objects, such as a copper time capsule. Using GPR, the students had collected data to suggest the location of the time capsule.

“They are exceptional NKU STEM students and exhibit qualities that make them stand out in a crowd,” said Brackman. “These guys did everything from start to finish.”

From Northern Kentucky University

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