Concrete research earns UA student kudos, fellowship

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 135 views 

A University of Arkansas senior cemented for himself some national recognition and a fellowship worth $7,000 last week for advanced research he did on concrete strength and how the addition of different variables, such as the type of mortar used, affect the outcomes.

Cameron Murray, a civil engineering major from Little Rock, won the Baker Student Fellowship Award from the American Concrete Institute Foundation for the 2012-2013 academic year.

“This is a very competitive award and Cameron has worked very hard to earn it,” Micah Hale, assistant professor of civil engineering, said in a UA news release. “It’s great to see our students getting this kind of national recognition.”

From his days playing with Legos and watching Modern Marvels as a child, Murray always knew he wanted to build things. However, after delving into his engineering-related classes at the UA, he considered changing majors.

“I found it hard to motivate myself to do well in Calculus and you cannot do well in those classes if you do not study,” Murray said. But after taking a structural materials class with Hale, he once again found his stride. “It gave me something I was passionate about,” Murray said.

Murray’s passion paid off. The award will help him finish his bachelor’s degree next semester and begin his graduate work. He also will receive an internship with an engineering firm or concrete manufacturing firm and will have the opportunity to attend two American Concrete Institute conventions.

Murray said he was looking for a summer job last year when Hale asked him and fellow undergraduate Richard Deschenes to perform some strand bond tests for Insteel Industries Inc., a company that manufactures steel strands. The researchers studied the bond between concrete and prestressing strands, steel strands that are cast into concrete to strengthen and reinforce it. They evaluated tests that measure the strength of the bond between strands and the surrounding concrete and looked at the way that different variables affect the outcomes. Continued testing and research became the basis for Murray’s undergraduate honors thesis.

“My research involved testing different mortars in the test and comparing the results,” Murray said. “It is our hope that the paper I write can serve as a guide to people who wish to perform the test to help them develop a mortar mixture to use.”

Murray said his finished paper, which he’s still working on, will be submitted to the Prestressed Concrete Institute convention in November. He is one of 10 students chosen to receive an expenses-paid trip to that convention to present his work.

Murray’s concrete expertise came in handy last weekend at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he and team members represented their fellow Razorbacks in the Concrete Canoe Competition, part of the American Society of Civil Engineers conference.

The UA’s concrete canoe, developed by Murray and fellow civil engineering student Jonathan Kerby of Frisco, Texas, placed second in the women’s endurance race and in the middle of the pack in most other contests in the 11-school competition. Despite not winning, Murray is proud of the work he and Kerby did.

“The canoe competed in every race and we received many compliments about the artwork on our canoe,” Murray said. Yellow and orange flames lick up from the bottom of the black boat dubbed Hog Fever. “There is a ton of room for improvement but the judges told us it was the best canoe the University of Arkansas has ever competed with.”
Murray and Kerby began working last fall on a concrete mixture for the canoe that would drop its weight from the average 140 pounds per cubic foot of structural concrete to 60 pounds per cubic foot.

“As for winning the ACI Fellowship, I couldn’t be more pleased,” Murray said. “Sometimes school can be overwhelming and tiring but getting recognition like that makes it very worth it. I love working with and learning about concrete and receiving an award from the ACI makes me believe I am moving in the right direction.”

After graduate school, Murray wants to join a structural engineering firm.