Tag Archives: testing

BYU students get hands-on experience at UDOT

BYU asphalt test

Students from BYU’s Civil Engineering program get hands-on training on asphalt tests

A countertop with baking pans, spatulas and mixers is not something you’d expect to find when you think of UDOT. But they’re all important tools that help us preserve our infrastructure in Utah.

How, you ask? On Tuesday, Jan. 27, students from Brigham Young University’s Civil Engineering program found out during a trip to Region Three’s Materials Lab in Orem.

Using oil, water, a vacuum and a lot of ovens, the students took part in hands-on training on asphalt testing and verification of asphalt mix design by baking, scooping, calculating and compacting the material.

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BYU Civil Engineering students pose with William “Billy Bob” Larson, Region 3 Lab Manager (t-shirt) and Clint Tyler (far left).

Before paving occurs on a roadway, engineers determine the appropriate materials for the project, document the specifications for a concrete or asphalt mix and test the pavement design in the lab. These tests help ensure that the road surfaces we lay down are the most efficient, longest-lasting they can be. We believe that good roads cost less: less to build and less to maintain. Through quality assurance tests at our region labs, we maximize the value of taxpayer dollars.

 Lab Manager William “Billy Bob” Larson said his lab invites students from BYU and Utah Valley University to take part in hands-on learning on a regular basis to enhance what they learn in the classroom.

 “If you don’t actually get out and do it, all your learning is just words,” Larson said.

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BYU pride on one student’s asphalt core

A behind-the-scenes look at the materials lab

Clint Tyler Materials Technician

Clint Tyler, a materials technician, looks on as an asphalt sample cools before conducting further tests. This machine runs a metal wheel over the sample 20,000 times to measure its durability.

Before UDOT employees reroute traffic, before they begin paving the road and even before they put out orange cones, they are hard at work. This work requires communication between traffic signal engineers, project managers and others – but none of it would happen without the approval from the materials engineers. The behind-the-scenes work done by engineers in the materials lab ensures the durability of the road before construction begins, making the lab testing a vital part of the preconstruction process.

Steve Park, Region Three Materials Engineer, explained that the purpose of the materials lab is to test road materials for strength and durability. “We get long-lasting roads by demanding high-quality materials, and it’s our job to test those materials before they’re in the road,” Park said. “We save taxpayer money that way, because we won’t have to tear it up later.”

Asphalt Sample

An asphalt sample cools following some tests. The asphalt tests conducted in the materials lab help materials technicians determine the mixture’s durability.

The materials lab has a few different functions. One function is to mix and test the materials that a contractor wants to use for a project. In this process, the materials engineers and technicians use the lab to mix the materials according to the contract specifications. After they have been mixed, the materials engineers analyze the results, and the mixtures are evaluated according to strict safety and durability standards.

After the materials engineers complete their analysis, UDOT materials technicians then test the mixes. One test assesses the durability of an asphalt mix by placing a sample in a machine that simulates a car driving on it. The machine runs a metal wheel over it 20,000 times, and it meets durability standards if the wheel creates a rut less than 10 mm deep. Another test cures concrete samples for 28 days in at least 95 percent humidity before crushing them to measure their durability.

Clint Tyler, a materials technician, said that the importance of these tests cannot be understated. “We do these tests because it’s easier to make changes now, before it’s in the road,” Tyler said. “Our roads last longer that way.”

Road Core Samples

A stack of road core samples waits to be examined. Every so often, materials technicians will take core samples of a road to determine whether or not it needs maintenance work.

A second function of the materials lab is to test the health of the roads. Every so often, materials technicians will take a core sample of a road to determine whether or not it needs maintenance work. These projects, such as resurfacing, minimize future construction by prolonging the life of the road.

“In the end, analyzing the materials and doing these tests is just as important as the construction itself,” Park said.

While materials technicians’ work will always be behind the scenes, the results they gather will continue to directly affect Utah drivers. Their hard work ensures that UDOT’s roads will provide safe and smooth travels for years to come.