IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME: ENGINEERING STUDENTS BUILD AND REFURBISH TWO NEW TESTING FACILITIES

ISU Engineering BuildingMadeleine Coles

News Editor

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has seen significant growth this year, thanks to students who have worked to build and rebuild a number of laboratories and testing facilities.

Earlier this year, students built a Structural Laboratory and upgraded the Structural Dynamics Laboratory to research earthquakes, and now they have recently finished refurbishing the Drop and Impact Pad Outdoor Facility, often called DRIP, as well as building an entirely new Asphalt Laboratory.

DRIP, which is located in the ISU Research Park, is a facility ISU has had for quite some time, but was never utilized, according to Mustafa Mashal, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and the faculty supervisor for these projects.

“DRIP is a very unique facility,” Mashal said, “and a great resource for the university.”

It was initially built 16 years ago for the drop testing of nuclear canisters, but Mashal said the project with the Idaho National Laboratory never went through, and the facility remained unused and, over time, became surrounded with bushes and dirt. Mashal said when students started the project, the pad was almost completely hidden and couldn’t be accessed by any vehicles.

The outdoor facility features a reinforced, six foot thick concrete pad armored with a two inch steel plate on top and can be used to test elements against drop and impact loads. And according to Mashal, it also has “one of the best views ever.”

Undergraduates Jared Cantrell and Jordan Stearns were responsible for the renovation of DRIP, which included clearing the pad, leveling off the surrounding area, and painting and reinforcing the steel plate, all of which took about a week, Mashal said.

They hope to also install a front gate and sign to further protect the facility and plan to conduct the first tests there next year.

Stearns and Cantrell were also involved with the building of an Asphalt Laboratory, along with undergraduate student Chris Clauson and graduate student Karma Gurung.

DRIP padThe Asphalt Laboratory, located in the Lillibridge Engineering Building, is the first for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The $6,000 lab was built with the financial support of an internal grant from the College of Science and Engineering, STEM Undergraduate Funds from Research Office for Stearns and Cantrell, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department funds.

According to Mashal, the department previously had to send students to the College of Engineering or the Idaho Transportation Department for them to have any access to an Asphalt Laboratory. 

Access to such labs is important for engineering students, because Mashal said many of them go on to have careers with the Idaho Transportation Department doing pavement design and testing.

“We are producing quality engineers,” Mashal said. “Now when these guys go work for the city, they are equipped with the skill of asphalt. This is really enhancing their skills and education.”

Mashal said the Asphalt Laboratory and DRIP Facility could also be useful in outside research. Particularly, he noted that having an Asphalt Laboratory opens up the possibility for further work with the Idaho Transportation Department.

“This opens up a lot of room for new opportunities and submission of proposals,” Mashal said. “And it opens up room to work with the city for any number of research projects.”

And while the facilities will help students expand their education, Mashal added that the act of building the facilities itself was also a way for students to gain new skills and knowledge.

“They just [built these] by themselves, and now they know how to execute a project on a tight deadline,” Mashal said, “which is an integral part in engineering work.”

Students have been working since the Fall 2016 semester to renovate and build new facilities for the department, and Mashal said they now have eight labs and facilities up and running.

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