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Mid-America Transportation Center

MATC Newsletter Version 5.1


MATC Welcomes New Partners: Iowa State University and University of Missouri

The Mid-America Transportation Center welcomes Iowa State University and the University of Missouri as new partners after the recent successful competition for the US DOT Region 7 Transportation Center. As both a major land-grant institution and Missouri’s largest public research university, the University of Missouri is well known for its excellence in transportation-related teaching and research activities. Mr. Charlie Nemmers will serve as the MATC Associate Director for Mizzou. Iowa State University, also a land-grant institution, has a rich history of transportation engineering through the Institute for Transportation Research (InTrans). Dr. Nadia Gkritza will serve as MATC Associate Director for Iowa State. Both institutions will add considerable capacity to MATC’s research, education, workforce development, and technology transfer activities.

MATC Successfully Launches Inaugural Webinar Series

MATC introduced its inaugural webinar series this spring with resounding success. The series featured world-renowned faculty from five of MATC’s partner universities.

Designed to appeal to a broad audience—from professionals to academics to engineering students—the MATC webinar series took a multidisciplinary approach in presenting innovations and research methods that are offering solutions to some of today’s most complex and pertinent transportation issues.

MATC hosted free one-hour webinars once a month through June of 2012. Faculty presenters focused on various practical research applications, ranging from the analysis of stress on bridges to the prevention of vehicle fuel fires. After the webinar videos were hosted online using Vimeo and the Powerpoint slides were hosted on Slidshare. All materials developed surrounding the projects are linked to the research project pages.

With 288 registrants representing 9 countries and 43 states, this approach is effectively communicating the latest transportation results to a diverse audience. The series continues to build upon these initial numbers, and currently there have been 1,519 views on SlideShare of the PowerPoint presentations and 881 views on Vimeo of the video recordings.

This webinar series is an integral part of MATC’s efforts to drive advances in the field of transportation research through technology transfer—the process of transferring research into practice. As MATC Director Laurence Rilett stated, “This is the key final step of any research project. When researchers discover an approach or technique that will result in a safer and more efficient transportation system, it is crucial that the information is presented to working professionals who can implement it. Innovate, inform, impact—that is our goal at MATC."

To learn more about the series or view a webinar, visit the MATC webinar series website.

Mizzou Hosts a Civil Engineering Exploration Day for Area Youth

The University of Missouri’s American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) student chapter hosted a civil engineering day for elementary students in Columbia and the surrounding area in February. The chapter’s goal was to engage children in hands-on math and science activities to spark their interest in civil engineering. Research shows that many young students begin to resist STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas by middle school, so this chapter wanted to engage these young students early. The day was focused on four of the specializations of civil engineering: structural, transportation, environmental and geotechnical, with a different activity for each area.

For structural engineering, the students built and load tested gumdrop and toothpick towers. Next, students made paper bridges for their Hot Wheels cars and load tested them with pennies during the transportation activity. Then, the participants created edible aquifers to visualize how pollution enters the water table and learned about the difference between point and non-point source pollution. Students could see the difficulty in controlling non-point source pollution in which multiple sources contribute to the pollution problem. Finally, they constructed miniature retaining walls using sand and paper towels.

The event had approximately 50 participants, 15 parents and 20 volunteers. Sarah Goebel, Mizzou’s ASCE chapter educational outreach director, said that the day was an exciting opportunity for the students.

“Civil Engineering Day for Kids is a crazy, chaotic and fun-filled day,” Goebel said.

This is the second time the Mizzou chapter of ASCE hosted the event, thanks to generous sponsorship from the university’s college of engineering, THHinc and the Small Business Transportation Resource Center.

Practice into Action: Former MATC Intern Credits His Experience for Current Career

They say the best way to show what you have learned is to apply it. Former Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) intern Don Butler can attest to that.

Butler interned with Olsson Associates in the summer of 2007 as part of the MATC Intern Program. He said he credited his professional development during the program as the reason for receiving his new job at Alfred Benesch & Company. Butler has been working as a designer for the company since last November.

Butler said he learned time-management, problem-solving and client-management skills during his engineering consulting experience at Olsson Associates.

“The MATC Intern Program bestowed on me the opportunity to start my career with a quality engineering company. That quality of engineering has stayed with me at my new position,” Butler said.

While interning, he had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, including observing construction and helping design the roadways between K and Q Streets as part of the Antelope Valley Project.

“The experience working on various aspects of different projects gave my interviewer the confidence that I would succeed in the future with their company,” Butler said.

Butler said he thanked Dr. Karen Schurr and the all of the organizers of the MATC Intern Program for jumpstarting his current career. Besides the invaluable experience that he gained from the program, Butler stated that he enjoyed and benefited from the mentorship of the employees. One of the employees is still his mentor to this day.

“She (his mentor) has been encouraging and caring about my professional development and was kind enough to even be a professional reference for job interviews,” Butler said.

Olsson Associates hired Butler following his MATC internship, and he stayed with the company until his graduation in 2008. Butler graduated from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln with a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering.

In addition to his job as designer, he is a civil engineering master’s student studying traffic design at UNL and expects to graduate in December 2012. He hopes to be a traffic designer and become a professional licensed engineer in the future. He also wishes to be a mentor for future interns.

Student Spotlight

Anna Maria Rakoczy

Inspired by her father’s work in construction management and her passion for math and science, Anna Maria Rakoczy found her niche in civil engineering.

Rakoczy is currently a civil engineering doctoral candidate specializing in structural analysis at the University of the Nebraska–Lincoln. The Poland native is working under the leadership of Andrzej Nowak, Ph.D., her faculty adviser. He described Rakoczy as the most ambitious and motivated of all his doctoral students, citing her self-motivation and strong dedication to her work.

“Anna Rakoczy is a truly outstanding and brilliant doctoral student,” Nowak said. “She is one of the very top of my 30 plus doctoral students and a natural candidate to recognize.”

Rakoczy’s main research areas include structural engineering, reliability and risk analysis, structural analysis and design code. Nowak said she was his top major research assistant and was pleased with her quality of work in light of her busy schedule.

“She is overloaded with assignments, but everything she does is of excellent quality. I am very grateful for having an opportunity to work with her,” Nowak said.

Rakoczy said her work has been personally rewarding as well.

“Since I became a research assistant at UNL, I have never felt bored. Scientific work is a challenge every day. Each project is unique and finding a solution to the problem always gives me delight and satisfaction from my work,” she said.

Rakoczy said her main research interests were the development of design and evaluation criteria for serviceability limit states for bridges and the extension of service life of railway bridges’ reliability-based evaluation criteria. She said she was very thankful for the mentorship of Nowak and the opportunities she has had with MATC.

While working with Nowak, she has conducted research for a Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) project. As part of the project, Rakoczy is studying the safety reserve in railway bridges by identifying the most sensitive parts of the bridge using the system reliability approach and a Finite Element Model analysis. She is also working on the development of load models for railway bridges. She said she has gained a great deal of knowledge about railway bridges from this project, and Nowak agreed.

“Her research will serve as a basis for a new generation of design code for railway bridges,” Nowak said. Over the course of her graduate research assistantship at UNL, Rakoczy investigated the following areas:

  • The reliability and risk analysis, structural analysis and design code calibration, development of reliability-based design criteria for lightweight concrete structures;

  • The calibration to determine load and resistance factors for the design of structural supports for highways signs, luminaries and traffic signals

  • The development of design and evaluation criteria for serviceability limit states for bridges and extension of service life of structures’ reliability-based criteria for evaluation of railway bridges, which was her MATC project.

  • Rakoczy plans to graduate this year. She said she hopes to work for a research university as a faculty member in the future.

    Tom Glueckert

    If future employers are looking for experience, they’ll find it in master’s student Tom Glueckert. The University of Iowa graduate student has been assisting on a major research project during his academic career.

    Glueckert is currently finishing his degree in civil engineering at Iowa, specializing in transportation infrastructure systems.

    Glueckert worked under the leadership of Hosin “David” Lee, Ph.D., on his warm mix asphalt additive research project. Lee said Glueckert played an integral role in the research, including overall operation and supervision of the asphalt laboratory where four other graduate students and five undergraduates were working. He also administered the two overlay projects, which used the additives in Iowa. At the conclusion of the research, he played an integral role in writing the final report.

    “Tom is very thorough in his work by compiling the test results in a nice format,” Lee said.

    Glueckert said this experience has given him more knowledge and skills in a subject area that he might not have had the opportunity of gaining if he had not participated in this project.

    “The experience I’ve gained with the warm mix asphalt is starting to play such a big role in how we design asphalt pavement, and the experience I’ve gained will be incredibly helpful in the future when I have to deal with those decisions myself,” he said.

    Glueckert plans to work on pavement design, geometric design of roadways or traffic light design post-graduation. He also said he would prefer working in the public sector. In the public sector, he said he felt like he was improving the lives of the general public and working directly for the taxpayers’ benefit.

    Glueckert expects to graduate this spring.

    Research Highlights

    Warm Mix Asphalt Research Paves Road of Success for University of Iowa

    University of Iowa faculty member Hosin “David” Lee, Ph.D., continues to attract interest for his research investigating warm mix asphalt (WMA). He completed this valuable research last summer, but the excitement surrounding this project is just beginning to build. After Lee’s research was featured in MATC’s February Webinar Series , he said he received numerous requests for the final report and links to the recorded session of the webinar presentation.

    His research has already been highlighted in many publications and on local news stations such as KCRG and KGAN in Iowa. The real-world implications of this research are apparent in how quickly the results have been implemented. A road construction project in Iowa City involving asphalt resurfacing used the WMA additives discussed in the final report. The city is the first in the U.S. to use the environmentally-friendly warm mix asphalt to pave its roads. The additive LEADCAP, or "Low Energy and Low Carbon-Dioxide Asphalt Pavement," was developed by the Korea Institute of Construction Technology and significantly decreases the pollution associated with standard asphalt reconstruction. The Pelling Company constructed the road with a 1.5 inch overlay using the LEADCAP warm mix additives in 2010. The additives have improved the moisture sensitivity of the road, according to Lee.

    Researchers said the overall impact of the WMA technology is huge: it saves energy, reduces pollution, provides a safer working environment for construction workers and possibly extends the pavement life.

    Lee and his research team plan to publish the results in technical journals in the future.

    To learn more about Lee’s warm mix asphalt research, visit the project description page where you can access the technical brief, recording of the webinar, slides and the final report.

    More Efficient Pedestrian Countdown Timers Impact the Engineering Community

    Pedestrian countdown timers are becoming increasingly more common at urban and suburban intersections. Their installation is believed to improve the safety for crossing pedestrians, as well as decrease the speed of vehicles at the stop bar during the yellow phase. However, the perceived benefits had not been objectively measured until a recent case study, “The Effects of Pedestrian Countdown Timers on Safety and Efficiency of Operations at Signalized Intersections,” was conducted by master’s student Jacob N. Schmitz and overseen by Professor Anuj Sharma, Ph.D. This case study tried to determine whether the information provided by pedestrian countdown timers created a safer experience for pedestrians and whether this information was utilized by approaching drivers to adjust speed during a yellow light. It was presented to the faculty of the graduate college at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for Schmitz's Master's of Science degree.

    The procedure they utilized was a before-and-after case study on the effects that pedestrian countdown timers have on thesafety and efficiency of pedestrians and drivers. The operations were performed at two signalized intersections in Lincoln, Neb. The standards of performance measures taken for pedestrian analysis included pedestrian compliance and average pedestrian walking speed. Performance measures for the driver analysis included probability of stopping and the speed at the stop bar as the vehicles passed through the intersection during the yellow phase. The data was compiled and analyzed using state-of-the-art data collection software, innovative microscopic analysis and statistical modeling tools. Overall, the researchers concluded that pedestrian countdown timers increase safety, increase pedestrian efficiency, and decrease vehicle efficiency of operations at signalized intersections. Further research is needed to determine the causes of the site-specific effects, which could lead to recommendations about where it may be beneficial to install pedestrian countdown timers opposed to where it may not benefit the intersection.

    “Location really matters. We found that the pedestrian timers worked better in downtown, urban areas versus heavy traffic intersections,” Sharma said.

    This case study’s research will help civil engineers decide which intersections are best suited for pedestrian timers, enabling communities to reap the most benefit by improving drivers’ behavior and pedestrian safety in the future. Civil engineers may even choose to put pedestrian timers at intersections with no pedestrian crossings to give drivers an early warning sign of a light about to change.

    For more information on this research, please click here.

    Research Report: Drs. Yong Bai, Tom Mulinazzi, and Steve Schrock

    Developing a Sustainable Freight Transportation Framework with the Consideration of Improving Safety and Minimizing Carbon Emissions

    The freight transportation sector continues to expand, despite the recent difficulties of the American economy. Freight transportation involves a significant portion of roadway traffic and users, and as such, it is important to consider the resources needed for this area to flourish safely and effectively. The research, conducted by Dr. Yong Bai, Dr. Steve Schrock and Dr. Thomas Mulinazzi attempted to develop a resolution to improve the safety and reduce the carbon emissions of freight transportation. The primary objective of this research was to compile a list of technologies and practices that should be included in the sustainable freight transportation frameworks of government agencies and commercial fleets to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their safety by providing recommendations on promising legislation, research, technologies and practices. The data was collected through a survey of state departments of transportation and a literature review of available materials. This research project provides the needed knowledge for the development of a sustainable freight transportation framework and better informs government officials of research to help make responsible policy decisions. A number of technologies and strategies examined within this report were measured for their effectiveness in a sustainable freight transportation framework. Government agencies and commercial fleets can use this information about effectiveness in their attempts to reduce carbon footprints and to increase safety in these areas: logistics, idling reduction, speed and weight limits and alternative fuels.

    Future research is needed to continue to explore the possibilities for engine improvements for all transportation modes, both in terms of low-cost alterations, which could have an immediate impact, and large-scale, long-term improvements.

    For more information on this research, click here.

    Research Report: Drs. Yu-Ning Ge and Yong-Rak Kim

    Validation on the Mechanical Models of Asphalt Pavement Structures with Field Measured Data Associated with Increasing Freight Movements

    U.S. freight movements are dominated by heavy truck transportation, and the addition of new roadway lane-miles in many regions has not kept pace with the increase in truck volume. This causes major problems in the safety of existing highway pavements, which must be effectively preserved to maintain a usable infrastructure. Dr. Yu-Ning Ge conducted a MATC research study in Missouri to address this major issue. The study was titled “Validation on the Mechanical Models of Asphalt Pavement Structures with Field Measured Data Associated with Increasing Freight Movements.”

    Ge is an assistant professor in the department of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The study was done on Missouri roadway sections, which were monitored several times over the project period. The study collected sufficient field performance data such as traffic information, asphalt material properties and subgrade conditions to use in various analyses. These analyses included the validation of the Mechanistic Empirical Pavement Design Guide (MEPDG) and the finite element method (FEM), in terms of the impact of heavy truck loading on pavement performance. The solution to this problem of infrastructure preservation is to accurately predict the behavior of pavement structures. The outcome of the study led to a better understanding of the pavement structure designs, which can result in a longer lasting transportation infrastructure and an improvement in public safety. This study was completed in close coordination with Professor Yong-Rak Kim from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln through a parallel study.

    For more information on this research, please click here.

    More News

    Two MATC Students Selected for IRF Scholars Program

    MATC would like to recognize University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Ph.D. student Yifeng Chen and Iowa State University master’s student Eirini Kastrouni for being chosen to participate as Executive Fellows in the International Road Federation (IRF) Scholar Program. IRF is a nongovernmental, non-profit organization that encourages and promotes the development and maintenance of better, safer and more sustainable roads and road networks throughout the world. It supports the Scholar Program, a 10-day session that identifies promising international graduate students currently enrolled at IRF Member Universities in the United States. The Executive Fellows are nominated by their professors and must demonstrate not only great academic accomplishments, but a strong will to contribute their knowledge and skills to their home countries. Chen, a civil engineering student from China and Kastrouni, a civil engineering student from Greece, exemplify what is expected of an Executive Fellow. Chen plans to work with IRF throughout his career to advance road development around the world. Upon graduation, he will return to China to share his knowledge and experiences with colleagues and upper administration policy makers. Kastrouni is a second-year graduate student in civil, construction and environmental engineering and an active member of the Transportation Student Association.

    Through this program, Chen and Kastrouni were able to participate in diverse, intensive and exciting activities. They shared a wide range of experiences such as presentations from industry leaders, social events and team competitions. The social events included: the Institute of Transportation Engineers reception, IRF Alumni banquet, IRF annual awards luncheon and the university hat exchange. These events allowed them to meet senior engineers, company and organization leaders, young professionals and outstanding researchers and professors. Many of these individuals were also IRF alumni. At the banquets and luncheons, they had opportunities to give public speeches and network with industry leaders and representatives. An integral part of this program is two days of meeting and training, including leadership and teamwork, as well as the advice on business and professional etiquette. In Chen’s opinion, the most informative and stimulating parts of this program were the presentations, the bridge building competition and the Dreznes Cup IRFardy competition. He said he also enjoyed the hat exchange party, where everyone wore a university hat and exchanged with each other at dinner.

    Chen said, “The most precious thing I obtained from this program was lifelong friendships with the other 26 IRF fellows. I believe that together with all of the IRF fellows and members, we will make a difference in the future of the road industry.”

    MATC Students Travel to the 91st TRB Annual Meeting

    More than 30 Mid-America Transportation Center students had the opportunity to attend the 91st Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting this year. University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate student Scott Sorensen, who has attended the conference twice, shared with us his experiences from Washington, D.C. Sorensen is also this year’s MATC Master’s Student of the Year.

    Sorensen said he attended various meetings, poster sessions and research paper presentations. He said he enjoyed attending the meetings the most because they were more interactive, and he had the opportunity to participate in the discussions.

    “This year at TRB was even more enlightening than the previous year because I was able to meet more people in the public transit field,” Sorensen said.

    He also appreciated the ability to attend more of a variety of committee meetings compared to last year.

    Sorensen stated his favorite activity was the MATC Student Dinner that took place before the conference started.

    “It was a fun night that helped me to meet the students from the other MATC schools in a low-pressure environment that led to some entertaining conversations. It was interesting to hear about the other projects that students were working on and was a great way to meet people at the conference,” he said.

    Sorensen added that he was able to recognize more people after meeting them at the dinner, which made the conference a better experience.

    Aside from official conference business, students also had the chance to tour the city. Some students visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, American History Museum, the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial and the National Archives to see the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. In addition, MATC hosted its annual student dinner recognizing the scholars for their outstanding accomplishments over the past year and welcoming new partners from Iowa State and the University of Missouri.

    Sorensen said the conference was a great learning experience for him.

    “The trip to TRB was a great opportunity for me to build upon my experiences from last year. I now have a better understanding of different conferences that will be going on throughout the year and also how the research paper selection process takes place. This conference also helped me gain more insight into the career paths that interest me and the necessary steps to achieve them,” he said.

    The center wants to offer special congratulations to UNL graduate students Carrie Mohlman and Corey Schram—pictured here with Sorenson—for winning the MATC Scholars Scholarship.

    MATC would also like to thank all the sponsors who made this opportunity possible for our students. The staff, faculty and students are looking forward to next year’s meeting.