Undergraduate team wins asphalt pavement mix design competition


By Danica Laub

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three undergraduate students studying civil engineering at Penn State have been honored with the top prize for their work in the Inaugural Northeast Regional Council Mix Competition, sponsored by the Asphalt Pavement Alliance (APA). The award presentation was held Jan. 21 during the 60th annual Pennsylvania APA Conference at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey.

Fourth-year students Zachariah Abbas, Victor Cai and Carly-Cliff Derosier, along with Conner McInerney, a spring 2019 materials science and engineering graduate, challenged teams from Columbia University, Manhattan College and University of Rhode Island. The goal was to create a mix using a 12.5-mm maximum size aggregate for an 8-million-equivalent single-axle load (ESAL) roadway with 20% reclaimed asphalt pavement. Additionally, each submission needed to meet the design requirements of each school’s department of transportation in each respective state.

“I am so proud of the hard work and ingenuity this team brought to the competition,” Mansour Solaimanian, director of the Northeast Center of Excellence for Pavement Technology (NECEPT), said. “They were tasked with developing the mix per the competition criteria, detailing how they determined the best mix and discussing the economics and performance needs of the mix. Their end result proved to be the best.”

Each team was judged on its written presentation (maximum 50 points), oral presentation (maximum 30 points), performance tests (10 points; pass/fail) and PaveXpress design (10 points; pass/fail).

Abbas, Cai, Derosier and McInerney, members of the Lion Asphalt Team, each received $250 for their work on the project. The team also received a trophy, which stays with Penn State until next year’s event.

The Northeast Center of Excellence for Pavement Technology is the Northeast Regional Superpave Center, housed at the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute. The primary mission of NECEPT is to provide training, research, technical leadership and assistance to ensure that the promise of more durable pavements becomes a reality. NECEPT has functioned as a very useful resource for research and outreach activities in the area of pavements and materials and has been an important source of hands-on training for engineers and technicians at a local and national level. The center is designed to be flexible and responsive to the needs of state highway agencies and the pavement industry. Since its inception, NECEPT has provided training for bituminous field and plant technician certification to approximately 800 technicians and engineers annually under the PennDOT certification program. More than 16,000 technicians have been certified under the bituminous certification program. NECEPT uses state-of-the-art asphalt materials and testing facilities to perform all of the conventional and specialized binder and mixture tests.

The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute is Penn State’s transportation research center. Since its founding in 1968, the Larson Institute has maintained a threefold mission of research, education and service. The institute brings together top faculty, world-class facilities and enterprising students from across the University in partnership with public and private stakeholders to address critical transportation-related problems.


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Megan Lakatos


“I am so proud of the hard work and ingenuity this team brought to the competition.”
—Mansour Solaimanian, director of the Northeast Center of Excellence for Pavement Technology