College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Cyclone engineers travel to precast concrete plant to see class concepts come to life

Student listening to tour guide teach
Student listening to tour guide teach

The process behind ensuring safe and reliable bridges is complex. So in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, students are given a full-scope, hands-on experience in class so that when they grow careers in bridge design and consulting, they can fully understand the process from beginning to end.

Taught by assistant teaching professor Hartanto Wibowo, the civil engineering 535 (Prestressed Concrete Structures) class travels to a precast concrete plant and goes on a tour of the site as part of the course.

In the beginning of the semester, students review prestressing hardware and process, then complete several prestress loss calculations, in addition to the flexural and shear design for prestressed concrete members. And then about halfway through the semester, they go on-site to a real-time prestressed concrete fabrication process to observe everything in action.

Student looking at a piece of a bridge

This semester, the students visited Rinker Materials, one of the largest concrete fabrication plants in Iowa Falls. At the site, the students get the chance to see three different pretensioning-related phases for bridge girders: the process of tendon placing and stressing, concrete pouring and steam curing, as well as tendon destressing or release. Professionals at the site give the tour, answer questions, and explain the process in detail to the students.

“We go on this trip to see the actual prestressing process,” Wibowo said. “The students have already learned the concepts in class, and now, halfway through the semester, they have the opportunity to see what they learned firsthand. This usually gives them satisfaction since what they learned and calculated on paper could actually be implemented in practice.”

Some of these students will also participate in the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Big Beam Competition, where they will build the beam at the precast plant themselves.

By going on this trip, students get the opportunity to experience the girder prestressing process in real-time to fully encapsulate the process before someday designing bridges in their careers.

Interested in taking this class? The next opportunity to take civil engineering 535 is in the Fall of 2024.

Construction workers pouring concrete