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Creating Professional Laboratories Versus Academic Laboratories For Construction Materials Courses

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Teaching Outside the Box in Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.369.1 - 10.369.11



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Paper Authors

author page

Kevin Hall

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Creating Professional Laboratories versus Academic Laboratories for Construction Materials Courses

Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., P.E. University of Arkansas


Most Civil Engineering programs contain courses related to construction materials – Portland cement concrete (PCC), aggregates, soils, and hot-mix asphalt (HMA). Traditionally, laboratory sessions associated with these courses have been taught using an ‘academic’ approach, which differs in many respects from method used in professional materials laboratories. Examples of differences include the use of an instructor- developed or third-party ‘laboratory manual’ versus professional specifications (i.e. American Society for Testing and Materials [ASTM]) or American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials [AASHTO]); the use of pre-prepared test samples versus field sampling; and the requirement for session-by-session ‘laboratory write-ups’ versus the development of a professional materials-related or design report. Consequences of using an academic approach to laboratory experiences include engineers in the workforce who are not equipped to read, understand, and apply professional testing specifications, and newly-graduated engineering interns ill-equipped to prepare a professional laboratory report. The University of Arkansas has conducted materials testing training and certification programs for the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) for over eight years; in that time a significant number of engineers, including construction contractor, consulting, and AHTD personnel, have cycled through the program. In many cases, engineers report that the training and certification program was their first experience in truly scrutinizing and fully understanding testing specifications. Construction materials laboratories contained in the Civil Engineering program at the University of Arkansas use a professional-laboratory approach. Keys to successfully implementing the approach include incorporating a ‘cradle-to-grave’ (e.g. sampling to design report) program within the laboratory; providing current professional testing specifications; testing students regarding specification details; providing state-of-the-practice testing equipment; and providing faculty incentive to become and remain active in testing specification organizations. This paper details the laboratory programs provided by the Civil Engineering program at the University of Arkansas, including ‘lessons learned’ regarding implementation of a professional approach. The University of Arkansas program could serve as a model for other programs seeking to move from a more academic approach to a professional approach in construction materials laboratories.

Keywords: Laboratory, Materials, Civil Engineering

Hall, K. (2005, June), Creating Professional Laboratories Versus Academic Laboratories For Construction Materials Courses Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15433

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