Asphalt in the classroom

student_in_classBy Brian Campbell

Are you new to the asphalt or paving industry? Or, perhaps, you’re a seasoned veteran just looking to enhance your overall knowledge of current paving standards, new technologies and the latest advancements.

Regardless of your level of experience or educational needs, a wide variety of learning options exist to broaden your knowledge of and insight to the world of asphalt, and specifically asphalt paving.

Short courses and training are available through a large numbers of venues. Industry associations such as the Asphalt Institute and the National Asphalt Paving Association offer training via in-class, webinar and online services.

Classes offered through industry sources tend to vary from half and full day duration up to weeklong sessions. In contrast, many U.S. universities and colleges offer a more in-depth educational experience through traditional semester long classes in a campus setting.

Texas A & M University, for example, offers both undergraduate (CVEN 342, CVEN 417 & CVEN 418) and graduate level courses (CVEN 653). “Highway Materials and Pavement Design” (CVEN 418) is a senior level course that covers the theory and practice in pavement design, pavement performance and the structural design of pavement layers. Course study includes the types of materials used in pavement layers, the characterization of these layers and an introduction to pavement management concepts.

The Midwest offers a wide selection of courses at Purdue University, Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota, among others. Undergraduate study at Purdue University includes a “Construction Materials” course that covers the basics of asphalt binders, emulsions, asphalt mixtures and asphalt mixture design. Additional courses are available on specific pavement design where students learn to design flexible pavement and are also exposed to actual flexible pavement construction.

For those who desire to learn even more about asphalt, Purdue graduate studies include CE 535, “Bituminous Materials and Mixtures.” This one-semester course is broken roughly into thirds, with one-third asphalt binders, emulsions and cutbacks, one-third aggregates and one-third asphalt mixture design. The class also has a laboratory component for those interested in a more “hands-on” learning experience.

Many universities also offer cooperative learning experiences with local agencies and DOTs. The University of Minnesota, in conjunction with the CTS (Center for Transportation Studies) offers a one-day workshop, “Management and Maintenance Practices for Asphalt Pavement Preservation.” This workshop increases awareness of the various pavement maintenance alternatives available today. It also highlights the benefits of performing preventive maintenance on roadways to extend their service life, improve ride-ability, and reduce long-term costs.

Further into the Midwest, you will find Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. FSU, together with the ICET (Institute for Construction Education & Training) and the Michigan DOT offer courses on HMA paving operations which cover many topics including paving equipment, base preparation, traffic control, paving and rolling operations, surface treatments and special bituminous materials.

As you can see many options are available to broaden your knowledge and expand your horizons on the paving industry Big or small, colleges and universities throughout the United States continue to shape their curriculum to meet the needs of a demanding market and today’s workplace.

The options for furthering your education and understanding of asphalt paving are almost endless, so grab your lunch pail and head on back to school this fall for a little refresher course.

Campbell is executive vice president of the SWT Group in Ontario, Canada.