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A 'tradition of working together'

10/12/2020 Emily Jankauski

All projects are a go for Illinois Center for Transportation. The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign’s transportation research hub has been busy with two recent projects.

CEE grad students, from left, Issam Qamhia, Aravind Ramakrishnan, Siqi Wang and José Rivera-Perez work together at ICT to even the concrete slab for the IDOT-sponsored project on Sept 22.
CEE grad students, from left, Issam Qamhia, Aravind Ramakrishnan, Siqi Wang and José Rivera-Perez work together at ICT to even the concrete slab for the IDOT-sponsored project on Sept 22.

 

Illinois Department of Transportation

Earlier in September, several Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate students assisted with an Illinois Department of Transportation-sponsored project known as R27-204: Optimized Hot-mix Asphalt Lift Configuration for Performance.

Grad students were up to their ankles in concrete helping ICT research the optimum hot-mix asphalt lift configurations in an effort to reduce reflective cracking.

“Reflective cracking occurs when an underlying existing pavement structure has joint cracks and a new overlay is placed on top of it,” said Greg Renshaw, ICT’s senior research engineer. “Over time, the movement of the joints/cracks will cause the top layer to crack in these locations.”

The problem for road users?

The reflection reduces the lifespan of the overlay, requiring more pavement updates and additional funding for the work.

Greg Renshaw, ICT’s senior research engineer, pours concrete to assist in the IDOT-sponsored project at ICT on Sept. 22.
Greg Renshaw, ICT’s senior research engineer, pours concrete to assist in the IDOT-sponsored project at ICT on Sept. 22.

“We are evaluating various overlay configurations to determine which combinations provide the most resistance to reflective cracking, or which ones take the longest to fail or completely crack through the entire thickness,” Renshaw said. “(This) will help IDOT make more sustainable decisions.”

But more than anything, Renshaw enjoyed the opportunity to show grad students “real-life skills.”

“All of them are brilliant scholastically, but many of them have never been on an actual construction site,” Renshaw said. “This is an opportunity to give them hands-on experience.”

The end result?

CEE graduate students strike a pose after their hard work pouring concrete into slabs for the IDOT-sponsored project held at ICT on Sept. 22.
CEE graduate students strike a pose after their hard work pouring concrete into slabs for the IDOT-sponsored project held at ICT on Sept. 22.

“I am extremely proud of our students,” Renshaw said. “They all jumped right in and created a solid team, learning, helping and working hard to produce a professional product.”

For Renshaw, being able to watch graduate students have that ah-ha moment is something he doesn’t take for granted.

“When you can see someone take knowledge that has been passed to them and apply it to a real-world situation, and then be thankful to have been able to help someone else, it is hard to use words to describe how you feel,” Renshaw said.

“Imagine an emoji that is smiling huge while shedding a small tear of joy and regret,” he added. “(You’re) proud of them and those that taught them, joyful that they understand, and regretful that they are going to leave us one day.”

 

Allen Cameron, left, IFSI’s facility operations specialist, and Greg Renshaw, ICT’s senior research engineer, chat about using ground-penetrating radar technology to locate a water main at IFSI on Sept. 24. The location will soon be home to a new tower rescue prop for firefighter training.
Allen Cameron, left, IFSI’s facility operations specialist, and Greg Renshaw, ICT’s senior research engineer, chat about using ground-penetrating radar technology to locate a water main at IFSI on Sept. 24. The location will soon be home to a new tower rescue prop for firefighter training.

Illinois Fire Service Institute

A request to locate a water pipe from the Illinois Fire Service Institute sent Illinois Center for Transportation right back into action.

IFSI has its hope set on building a new tower rescue prop for firefighter training. But a water main stood in the institute’s way and was unable to be easily located using common utility equipment.

Allen Cameron, IFSI’s facility operations specialist, looked no further than ICT to assist with the dilemma given its efforts with ground-penetrating radar, which sends electromagnetic waves to the ground to locate objects.

“Ground-penetrating radar was the best option for precisely verifying this water main location,” Cameron said.

Siqi Wang, a CEE doctoral student, who assisted in the effort, said the successful location of the water main is a “perfect example” of GPR’s capabilities.

“Nondestructively we managed to provide a possible bury depth and path of this missing pipe through GPR scans in less than 1 hour,” Wang said. “This can help ensure the safe construction of the IFSI facility and potentially the training of firefighters who will save thousands of lives.”

Royal Mortenson, IFSI’s director, couldn’t agree more.

“This tradition of working together to make things better benefits UIUC, IFSI and the communities we serve,” Mortenson said.