The Superpave system is increasingly seen around the country as the mix design system that will take roads into the 21st century. But to the engineering students at the nation’s universities who will be designing and maintaining those future roads, it has remained largely an unknown. Indiana is setting out to change that.
Lee Gallivan in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Indiana Division is spearheading a project by the Indiana DOT, the Asphalt Pavement Association of Indiana, FHWA, and five Indiana universities (Purdue, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Valparaiso, Notre Dame and Tri-State) to introduce Superpave training in undergraduate engineering courses. The $214,000 project is being funded by FHWA, Indiana DOT, the Asphalt Pavement Association of Indiana and the universities themselves. Gallivan described the rush of support as “a chariot race,” once he got the ball rolling.
The need to incorporate the Superpave system and other technologies developed under the Strategic Highway Research Program into the engineering curricula at universities has been pointed out by the Transportation Research Board’s Engineering Curriculum Expert Task Group and others. Until now, however, the lack of funding had precluded such an initiative.
Indiana’s groundbreaking plan for introducing the Superpave system at the undergraduate level is three-pronged. First, to bring professors up to speed on the Superpave system, the North Central Superpave Regional Center at Purdue held a one-week training course in Indianapolis in February. The training covered Superpave binder and mix design, as well as hands-on experience with the Superpave binder equipment and the gyratory compactor.
According to the center’s technical director, Becky McDaniel, two people from each of the participating Indiana universities were to attend. Additional classes are to be scheduled according to demand.
An undergraduate introduction to the Superpave system is “essential,” said McDaniel. “We have to make sure that people coming out of college know what Superpave is and how to use it. It’s the future of pavement design, but until now we haven’t made the effort to extend the training to the undergraduate level.”
Second, to extend the training to the undergraduate level, a special curriculum is being developed by the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT). The curriculum will incorporate four hours of instruction for sophomores, 12 hours for juniors and 45 hours for seniors.
The curriculum will consist of a syllabus that professors can customize for their classes, as well as overhead illustrations and a computer disk containing graphics files. Once the instructional material is ready, FHWA plans to distribute it to universities nationwide as a model curriculum.
Third, to enable hands-on training, Purdue University and Rose Hulman Institute of Technology will be equipped with Superpave laboratory equipment, including gyratory compactors. The other participating Indiana universities will receive equipment at a later date.
The Superpave curriculum and laboratory equipment will allow universities to produce a “better educated group of people working in the industry,” said Lloyd Bandy, executive director of the Asphalt Pavement Association of Indiana. The association plans to contribute to that education by setting up a scholarship program for juniors and seniors particularly interested in studying the Superpave system.
The association is aiming to award grants between $1,000 and $2,000 to two or three students at each of the Indiana universities participating in the undergraduate education program, beginning this year. It also hopes to expand its existing internship program and have students gain field experience by working with state agencies and industry on Superpave projects.
Dave Andrewski of the Indiana DOT endorses the project. “This is a new program not only for Indiana, but also for the country,” he said. “Typically, schools don’t prepare students for the asphalt field and we have to train them from the ground up. This will be a tremendous help for us, as new employees will already come in with Superpave training.”
Morgan program promotes careers in transportation
Indiana’s goal of ensuring a well-trained workforce in the transportation field is shared by a new U.S. DOT initiative known as the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program.
The program aims to make math and science more relevant to students and to encourage interest in transportation-related material into the curriculum for each grade level. The program also seeks to identify and promote partnerships with community colleges, junior colleges, and other undergraduate and graduate programs to attract students to the transportation field.