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Heat and Hard Hats

Man, it was hot in Michigan today. Fantastic!

Today was quite exciting for this lowly graduate student. I got to spend the day following a documentary film crew who are shooting footage for use in a Discovery Channel show. The shoot is sponsored by the same Office of Cyberinfrastructure that sponsors yours truly’s education and research assistantship. They’re shooting for a show called “Material Worlds” from which we’ll all be able to learn about properties of various materials, including the “bendable concrete” the civil engineers I work with developed.

We started our day with a few hours at Brighton Block & Concrete learning about concrete in general. Mornings are exciting at concrete plants. Trucks are coming in and out pretty rapidly; guys are driving around on fancy forklifts moving heavy stuff.

We took a lunch break at Sidetrack in Ypsilanti (home of the famous burgers). I was surprised by the ease with which all the producers, cinematographers, civil engineers, and chemists were able to chat about everyone’s work. The producer on our shoot also produced all the exterior shots of Washington, D.C. for the movie American Dreamz. You probably didn’t see it, but I did, and I remember those shots.

After lunch we headed to the Grove Street bridge in Ypsilanti. The Grove Street bridge crosses I-94 and has 42 cubic feet of engineered cementitious composite in a link slab running through the middle of the bridge. I’ve heard hours of interview about the Grove Street bridge and the ECC in it, and transcribing some of those hours is what I’ll be up to tonight.

Standing in the sunshine in my hard hat, capturing the process on SI’s Handycam, I got excited about the project again. Data makes me so happy. Maybe the lesson here is that if I’m gathering data, about anything really, I stay motivated. So, I just need more field days to make this thing work for me intellectually. That’s the hypothesis I’ll be testing anyway. Earlier in the week I got to see my first tensile test in the ACE-MRL lab, and I got to keep the ECC specimen we stretched out. That little souvenir may go a long way toward maintaining my emotional investment. Isn’t it amazing what artifacts can do? Sorry, couldn’t help but put a little 504 back in to the mix. Take it up with Radley.


  • Noor |

    This seems like a noteworthy event highlighting the diversity of an SI education! Jay Jackson should write one of those snazzy SI news feature stories!!

  • Andrea |

    Hey, as long as that concrete is stronger than the experimental concrete from the 70’s that went into thousands of Michigan bridges…

    Sounds like a unique experience – I hope it continues to serve as good motivation!

  • libbyh |

    I can tell you the provenance of “engineered” – as in engineered cementitious composites. Bam!

    Hard hats are quite fun; I have my own but didn’t know I’d need it. So, there I am wearing someone else’s.

So, what do you think ?

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