A team of civil engineering undergraduate and graduate students from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) earned second place out of 10 universities renowned for their asphalt teaching and research at the inaugural National Asphalt Mixture Design Competition sponsored by CRH Materials Americas Inc.
The competition, which took place via a webinar presentation, introduced students to designing asphalt mixtures and helped them identify parameters that differentiate between good and poor performing asphalt mixtures, while providing exposure to asphalt testing with real-world economic considerations.
The objective of this competition is to demonstrate and execute the process of optimizing the use of pavement materials to produce a Balanced Mix Design (BMD) that would perform satisfactorily against the two major pavement distresses of cracking and rutting.
The UTEP team was comprised of five students from the Center for Transportation Infrastructure Systems (CTIS) — doctoral student Deepak Jichkar, master’s student Denis Vieira, and undergraduate students Sarah De La O, Gabriela Montes and Monica Santillana, who are actively working in research projects under Soheil Nazarian, Ph.D., and Imad Abdallah, Ph.D.
The team was mentored and guided by Victor M. Garcia, a transportation engineering doctoral student who works as a CTIS research engineer. Garcia helped the team develop and evaluate several asphalt mix designs using specifications from the Texas Department of Transportation to achieve a sustainable and cost-effective BMD mix.
“We are very proud of our team’s performance and accomplishment in this competition,” Garcia said. “Our team demonstrated great commitment, responsibility and confidence in representing UTEP at a national level. I really enjoyed my time mentoring and supporting our CTIS students to experience this type of challenge and achieve their academic and professional goals. I hope the UTEP team’s accomplishment paves the road for future generations to get involved in more professional and educational opportunities.”
UTEP represented Texas in the competition, which also included teams from the University of Arkansas; Auburn University; the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; the University of Missouri; the University of Nevada, Reno;’ the University of New Hampshire; Oregon State University; Purdue University; and Rutgers University.
UTEP’s second-place finish means the members will split $5,000 and be recognized by the asphalt industry. This year, CRH Americas Materials awarded a total of $20,000 in academic scholarships to promote the field of transportation engineering through a well-organized and professional competition.
“CTIS has sparked my interest in the transportation engineering field,” Santillana said. “I enjoy my time getting involved in organizations at UTEP, where I’ve gained leadership skills and professional development. I plan to advance my knowledge to improve my community’s transportation safety and engineering practices.”
“Working at CTIS research labs has really broadened my horizons in the field of transportation engineering as I am able to witness topics presented in my classes,” De La O said. “Currently, I am working on acquiring academic knowledge and technical skills in the field of transportation engineering so that I can later apply them in my professional career. My career goal is to contribute to the improvement of transportation systems with the use of ingenuity and applying the professional skills that I am soon to acquire.”
Author: Darlene Barajas – UTEP Communications