A Tour of the World Center for Concrete Technology
welcome to another edition of alpena community college's fireside chats. i'm the director of alumni relations mary eagan and on this episode, i will take you for an insider's look at the world center for concrete technology. you'll find out about the academic degrees that we offer in concrete technology, but you'll also find out that we do a lot more at the world center for concrete technology. it's not just about education in-house,
but it's about educating the world about concrete and concrete block. we also do a lot of testing and experimentation over at the wcct that i think you're going to find pretty interesting. so, let's take a walk over to the world center for concrete technology. the world center for concrete technology is housed in harris hall honoring william p harris and his family who were integral to the formation and success of the huron-portland cement company.
construction on harris hall broke ground in april 1999 and had a budget of about $8 million, the bulk of which was donated by besser company and others in the concrete industry. wcct opened in august, 2000 and is home to one of acc's most famous and respected programs of study. we are in harris hall in the world center for concrete technology and i'm joined by dawn stone, the director of the world center for concrete technology. welcome to the acc fireside chats. could you tell me a little bit about wcct? sure. so the wcct um was built about 20 years ago. uh we have been, you know, have, we've had a concrete technology program for a lot more years than that, but about 20 years ago, we saw the need to be able to to build and develop the program and offer other services, in addition to the traditional associates of applied science program. so the the hall was built 20 years ago and we have a full-size besser black machine here. we have a full-size testing lab so we can test concrete for
for strength and absorption and those kind of things. so, yeah. so this is the wcct and we'll get a little bit more in-depth with all of the features, the, the educational features of the world center for concrete technology but just looking at this building it makes me think back to besser technical center, which was originally built to showcase the decorative uses of concrete masonry. and concrete really is both literally and figuratively the building block of alpena community college, so this is kind of the updated version of the showcase to show what concrete masonry can look like and it's everything from a ping pong table behind you to paving stones and planters and and all sorts of stuff. so it's a little unusual
to have a ping pong table--not, not to mention a concrete ping pong table--here in a college, so can you tell me about that?sure. so one of the things that you know that i mentioned is that you know we wanted to expand our reach when it comes to the concrete industry and so we may had a partnership a number of years ago before i was here with a company that wanted to develop concrete ping pong tables for parks, outdoor parks in new york city, and so they came and they tested it and they figured out you know whether or not it would work and whether or not they would last and in return they gave us this ping pong table. well it's very cool. students use it? they use it every single day--very loudly--and they have a very good time. and you know when you're in an education program that's intense, this is a wonderful release for them, you know, and and it also gives them another example of how concrete is a huge part of our world. well, it's
a fun part of our world and i think, i don't know, maybe we should start a competitive concrete ping pong league. maybe that could be our thing. sure, sure absolutely. well, let's go and see some of the other aspects of the world center for concrete technology and learn a little bit more about maybe the educational part of this and then we'll get into the testing and research. sounds good. we are now in the classroom lab. now it doesn't look like your typical classroom, uh, but we do have, well, maybe a typical instructor. this is eric kennedy, instructor here in concrete technology at alpena community college and, eric, you've been on board, what? about a year now? yep, yep. so are you an alumnus of the program? yep. so i graduated the concrete tech program in 2009.
um, i went through here and then i went on and worked in industry for about 11 years and then i was lucky enough to, you know, get a job back here, uh, after kevin sylvester retired. so how do you feel that your education here at alpena community college prepared you for the workforce of concrete tech? yeah, so, i mean, here you get well-versed in many different aspects of, uh, of the industry, which i worked in many different parts and that's kind of what we do. we give everybody kind of a footstep in the door, you know, because we have, uh, block, you know, we teach a block class. we teach a place concrete class. we teach precast, aggregate, cements--so, ag mixtures--so, every different part of the industry that you're going to go into, we kind of dabble in. we don't teach you everything, but that's what you do when you get out there. so,
it really gets you a footstep in the door. so what are the kind of things that you do here in the classroom lab? yes we do many different things as you can see in front of us here's a pervious slab this was actually made in tim onstwedder, the other instructor's lab this year. uh, you can actually pour a bucket of water right through it and it's gonna, you know, as fast as you can pour it in there, it's going to take it out. so you don't need a lot of, uh, you know, storm drain systems, retention ponds, things like that--and naturally filters the, you know, runoff. the oils, the salts, you know, everything that comes off your car, right through it without having these retention ponds and things like that. all right, so this is the pervious slab and this is usually, uh, we're going to pour it right through this live.
you can see it going through the bottom there and we usually measure in gallons per minute. some people, we have students who have done full-year research projects on the pervious concrete slabs, where they they find out and get a little more in depth into it. and so what are they used for out in the real world? yeah, so sidewalks, parking structures...uh, they're actually using some of it for backfills behind the retention walls you know so that the water doesn't sit behind those walls and put more pressure on, so it can drain through, uh, you know, anywhere that doesn't have high traffic volumes you can use this pervious concrete. because it's not as durable, you can't use it on a freeway and things like that, but small parking lots, you know, sidewalks, uh areas trying to just get the water off. that's really cool! now, we have an example of maybe more of the decorative uses of concrete--not that it's not also functional, eric--but tell me about this. well, it looks like a sculpture. yeah, so this is,
uh, this is a michigan mold that when we didn't make our concrete canoes and precast class which is uh anything that's made beforehand you know a mire that goes out to a building it's all tilted up it's made beforehand in a controlled environment so you usually make something like this michigan mold here um we make it usually a self-consolidating concrete you can put any different kinds of aggregates in it to make it look like anything you want basically you want it to look like granite marble i mean you can make it look a lot different you know it's cool in the dark yeah i mean nobody would really think it's concrete. you can polish it up, you can make it look really nice, and you can use it for concrete countertops. like i said, precast concrete, many different applications for things like this. and this glows in the dark?
yes, this goes in the dark, so if we had the chance we could kill the lights for the video we could show that it does well in the dark. yeah, well, also it's nice for your kitchen, because if you get up in the middle of the night for cookies and milk as i do, you don't even have to turn on a light. it's perfect. yeah yeah so a lot of people use them too for like uh indoor or pathways up to your house you know things like that to kind of light the way so you don't have to put solar lights and things like that so. that's really clever! cool. and i feel like i'm being attacked by something eric. what is this? this is a concrete canoe
made in 2002, so this is an older one. this is one we've always kept around for years back when we had the auto body shop. they had some friends that were in the auto body so they got it nice and finished up and painted really nice. uh so it looks really good. so we've kept
this one around for many years. and how much does this weigh? this is, i mean, this is thick. yeah, this one this one, weighs uh probably about 300 pounds. i would say this one on the lighter side compared to the ones that we made this year which were a little bit thicker and a little bit longer so. but usually the the concrete weighs itself. we usually measure in pounds per cubic foot, so about
50 pounds per cubic foot, which is about a third of what normal concrete's going to be. okay, so this down here is kind of, what the, yes, the vessel--shall we call it the ship? yeah so this is a part of it. you can see it's got some expanded glass liquid aggregates in there. they only weigh probably about five pounds cubic foot, so that's how we get concrete to actually float in water. we use some lightweight aggregates inside of it so it can float in water. so
in this year's concrete canoe race, which i know is a tradition with the program, um who won? uh i don't like to brag, but me and uh tim onstwedder, we uh took this old uh one from 2002 out on the water and, uh, we beat the students handily. we were at the other end of pond before the students turned around. does this have a name? like, you usually name ships, so does the canoe have a name? uh this one you'd have to ask these guys that signed it uh, back in the day, so this was a ultimate name with their themselves but uh we could just call it the winner for this year. the winner. all right, there's no trash talking at all. all right,
so you're talking about concrete that floats, which is something that a lot of people may not realize is even possible, so you have a little demonstration here for us. yeah so a lot of people would say you know when you think concrete's heavy, it's maybe when pick it up, and even at 300 pounds, or the ones we had--five, six hundred pounds, some people still say, "how does that float on water?" well, it's more of how many pounds per cubic foot it has to weigh. so this one right here is about 55 pounds per cubic foot. this is a cylinder from uh from this year. uh thursday's group. so i'm just going to put it in the fish tank here and we'll show you that,
actually, this is how the concrete canoe is floating on water. we actually have to use a lot of lightweight aggregates to get it to float uh in water. that's amazing! so you do have like bobbing for concrete competitions, things like that? that would be something we'll have to bring into a future year. trying to partner with a dental school! yeah, there we go.
so looking at more of the the fun side of the classroom lab for concrete tech, maybe next we will go look at some of the the services that we offer for industry with research and testing and so i think dawn stone is going to join me again. perfect. dawn stone has joined me once again in probably the most impressive classroom of sorts at alpena community college. this really goes to our whole history at alpena community college, which, of course, the land that we sit on was donated by jesse besser, so we've come full-circle and we're now here at the besser block making workshop room, or what, what do we call it? that's actually a pretty good description. so one of the things that we do here at the wcct is we train block makers from across the world to become the best block makers they can be, because, as you mentioned, before, you know that our entire world is built on concrete block. but unless that
concrete block is made properly, you know, with the correct additives and the correct mix design, it's not going to hold up all of our buildings, right, so the classes we bring people in from across the world and we have a lot of time in the classroom to talk about some of the technicalities of what makes a good block but then it's really important for all these people to be able to apply what they've learned in the classroom so through the generosity of besser company and a lot of other partners we actually have a fully operational full-scale besser block machine here i'm not sure people realize that this whole room is a block machine in essence so the partnership that we have with besser not only goes back to our history and their philanthropy but it also goes to our future and producing the the highest quality block makers not just internally with our concrete tech program but people come here as you said from all over the world so it's very impressive and how often do we get folks that that come here for the workshop so we do one-week classes and we run about six in the fall and about six in the spring so you know we usually have 10 to 10 to 20 students in each of the classes so we've actually you know over the years trained a lot of block makers on on utilizing this equipment so it's really a neat endeavor because you know we we live in a very fairly rural area and so to have this partnership with besser and to be able to bring folks in from across the world is really a wonderful you know economic development and you know cultural development it's it's been a fantastic experience and i look forward to continuing that well let's talk to some of the people who make this all run sounds good i'm joined by andrew morris who is what's your job title technical service representative at besser yes and you just graduated from alpena community college's concrete tech program when uh just this past month couple weeks ago a couple weeks ago yeah and you immediately got a job with besser yes and you're back here at alpena community college so andrew i know you just started just a few days ago working for besser um and you haven't really gotten your feet wet but for acc i know you're kind of in charge of maintaining the block machine here um and so for besser you'll be doing kind of the same thing yeah kind of the same thing here at acc i do help maintain and keep the place clean for for visitors and whatnot um but actually at besser we will be traveling and and going to help uh replace parts or fix fix and help teach to operate the actual block machine so how long did it take you do you do you know what all this stuff does at this point this isn't great no not all of it no but you'll learn yeah i'm learning yeah slowly so i detect an accent so where are you from north carolina so what brought you to alpena and what made you choose to go so far away from home to start a concrete tech program in northern michigan um my wife is actually from oscoda so we moved here and then i found out about the program and i was really interested so i came and how do you feel that the program here prepared you for your career in concrete tech um halfway through uh both both of the years you get to do a summer internship program and you you interview like you're getting an actual job and you get to choose either if you go ready mix or block and i chose to go the the block route and i went i worked with old castle in uh castle hanging north carolina and i learned a lot there i actually worked inside the plant and i i got to test a little blocks oh that's neat yep i learned a lot so well soon you're going to learn a lot more about block making and you'll be teaching others so we're thrilled to have a partnership with besser it's a continuing relationship that alpena community college enjoys and i think it's a reciprocal relationship obviously getting to use this facility to train block makers all over the world and soon you're going to be a part of that and we're very proud to have you as lumberjack thank you a lot of people don't know that there are three aspects to the world center for concrete technology obviously there's the educational component with our associate's degree at alpena community college then there is the block makers workshop and finally there's research and testing and we do that for outside businesses they come to us even governmental entities we do testing for and don stone is joining me again to talk a little bit more about that program which a lot of people don't know about at alpine community college right so you know we saw the black plant and one component of the testing is that we will actually rent out the block plant to companies and they'll put different additives and things into their concrete mix run it through the block machine create block and then we test those for strength and absorption and freeze and thaw capacity those kind of things so we also help local businesses and regional businesses when they cast cylinders they'll bring those to us and we'll put them here in this chamber to um you know to cure and then we'll test those for things like strength and absorption and um you know just make sure that the concrete that they're pouring out in the field meets the specs necessary to keep us all safe nobody wants a road or a bridge that is built with concrete that's not strong enough well and i think that's something that all of us take for granted you just think well you have the building materials you use them as directed and you get the end result but it's really important to make sure that what you're using is safe and effective and that is something obviously we all want as citizens and alpena community college is able to offer that so we have the curing chamber tell me about the curing chamber this is a little intimidating so the curing chamber is where we put our our cylinders and allow the concrete to cure and it's kept at a certain temperature in a certain relative humid humidity so that you know it's it all is like the perfect environment for concrete so then we can test it and make sure that it's going to be above what we need it to be so that it stays strong out in the field so we have the curing chamber behind us and it's kind of intimidating looking curing chamber says it's 70 degrees fahrenheit 95 percent relative humidity and i'm assuming that is the ideal conditions for concrete to cure so what does it look like in there well it's it is a chamber it's a chamber of secrets it's always kept damp and it's always kept warm you know so it stands to reason that it wouldn't be the most the prettiest you know of environments but it certainly serves the purpose of keeping the concrete at us at the ideal you know situation so yeah yeah so opinion community college several years ago was awarded a national science foundation grant which is a big deal for anyone but especially on the community college level so can you tell me a little bit about what the grant afforded us to do absolutely so yeah the national science foundation has historically only issued research and development grants to large research universities so this was kind of a this was a huge deal for us to be awarded this national science foundation grant and what the project was was to identify whether or not carbon could could be sequestered from concrete so one of the issues of course is the release of carbon into the environment and so and concrete does release a lot of carbon and that's unfortunate so the research project had to do with whether or not they could sequester that car that carbon from concrete block so we actually ran the block in the black plant and then built a carbon sequestration machine so it kind of sucked it out it did okay and then we tested the black to make sure that it would stay strong so it was kind of a nice synergy it was a you know a whole process of of making block be more environmentally friendly we received some awards for it it was it was very cool that's so neat and what a feather in our cap that as a community college we were able to do that and do it so well right absolutely so a lot of people think that the concrete technology program is just all hands-on stuff you're pouring concrete you're testing things in the in the lab that we saw earlier but in actuality there's a lot of classroom study that backs up all of that hands-on knowledge we have to have a classroom knowledge first i would imagine so i guess i'd really like to know what makes the concrete tech program so unique here at alpena community college i think it's so unique because i mean we give everybody a little bit of taste of industry you know you do a summer internship between your first and second year which gets you ready we come back with some now so we can really you know talk about some things that you saw and maybe you didn't understand it we can talk about a little bit more we can talk about in the classroom we you know we're more a material science you know into things where we don't get out there and we'll teach you how to finish flat work if that's what you want to do but we're more into mix design you know specifications doing some middles things that are behind the scenes that sometimes you don't see in a lot of big projects so we get you ready for to go into many different parts of that industry and it's the things that really make concrete buildings safe effective have quality products obviously besser is second to none when it comes to block making a concrete masonry and that's something that we specialize in here at alpena community college and i i know that it may be a surprise to people to see us in a classroom and also such a technologically advanced classroom you've been able to use virtual learning i know during the covet shutdown and we'll probably integrate that into your into your program at large yeah so we uh we you know it isn't a perfect world but it's it's more than what we could do before we had this technology you know before people go home you do youtube videos they watch them now we can you know have them right up on the screen we can talk to them uh as as if they're almost sitting in the classroom so now you know silver lining to it all is now we can get outreach to a lot of high schools that are out there that want to know more about what is concrete technology what is utility tech what are these programs here offered at acc we can offer our intro to concrete to these high schools out there virtually which i'll be teaching in the fall here uh two three classes in the inland lakes and rogers city couple area outreaches around here that we have and then they can see you know what are we really about here and then so they can possibly get signed up for the program that interests them so it's kind of silver lining of all this you know we can get guest speakers to come in we can do virtual tours you know with this technology now uh there is some benefits to it for us and it is that silver lining of the the covid shutdown that we discovered new ways of teaching new ways of learning that we'll be able to integrate into all of our programs here at acc and it's neat to see us be able to do that with our premier program concrete technology yeah definitely. so what kind of careers do we really prepare students for once they go through the concrete technology program here at alpena community college? so there's an array of different jobs as i kind of mentioned before you know we kind of give everybody just kind of footprint and door to different parts of the industry that are available out there so if you want to go work at a anybody that works down the road you see an mdot truck out there you see a consultant some engineering firms out there most of those are our past grads you know they're going to come back and they're going to interview our students as they you know get to the company come back and that's just one of the job opportunities you know besser company any kind of old castle parts that are all in the block industry you know that's out there precast concrete which we have a class on so that's anything that's pre-made in a facility then it gets tilted up you know so any kind of quality experience quality control you know stuff like that a lot of people are into um so a lot of different job opportunities as well as you know everything that goes into concrete a cement you know the aggregates the ad-mixtures all that has to be tested in some way shape or form if you like to go into sales if you like to work indoors outdoors you know a lot of the instructors always likes to say take a map in the united states throw a dart at it and you can find a job anywhere out there and any different parts if you like indoors outdoors if you're a people person if you're not uh we got all kinds of jobs that are going to suit you and that's what this board represents these are all job opportunities for the graduates of alpena community college's concrete tech program and i think this is really the best testament to the quality of our program here that employers are seeking out our students they know that they're going to get an employee that has a high quality education that has the knowledge that they need to be successful in the field and and this really says it all yeah this is uh so this is one of the boards that we're seeing here we got another board they're usually usually both hanging on the floor full and yeah this is usually something people see when they come in and they their eyes you know open up and they light up and this is just some of the jobs where like you said people are coming here to interview our students you know probably on average 30 companies come here a year just to just to uh you know interview our students one one of our students this year had 12 job offers coming out of the program you know so a lot of these jobs on here they're taking multiple people if they can too and people do summer internships these are internships plus full-time jobs so they might be taking three four some companies come in they would hire every single person that if they could you know 15 20 30 people uh there's that much need out in the industry for people so so jobs are out there for for everybody so looking at this job board obviously alpena community college graduates are in high demand in the industry why is that what is the the edge that acc students have that maybe other students from other programs don't so uh we offer here oh after you get done with your first year we teach a mix design class which we teach about mix designs a little bit but a lot of it is getting you ready for your aci and mca level one certification so what do those stand for just so now michigan concrete association and american concrete institute offer certifications so if you live in a state you got to get michigan certified if you you know like i work for a la farge we're a world nationwide company i only have to be american concrete institute certified so we can get those we offer those certifications here mca hope kind of host it and they come right on site here and then we get the certification done right towards the end of the school year for our students which they come right here so most people have to go down to lansing have to pay you know probably a thousand dollars for the certification our students get it at a deep discount so it's 200 up front if you pass certification you get another hundred dollars back that includes all your books binders so you basically pay a hundred dollars for the binders and that's something we have through the mca where they offer scholarships up here they give us a discount on the we just have a good working relationship with the michigan concrete association so it's certainly impressive and i know people who are watching maybe they know someone who's about to make a choice about where to go to college or they're thinking about changing careers if they have questions about the concrete tech program here at alpena community college who do they reach out to yeah so you can reach out to me eric kennedy or tim onswater one of the two instructors here you can go on acc's website you can go to programs you can go under concrete technology there's my email there there's tim's email there you can sit through you can see the curriculum what's going to get taught and there's a lot of good information on there that you can find well thank you so much for joining us and and educating me especially and all of our alumni and viewers about the concrete technology program here at the world center for concrete technology at alpina community college yes thank you thank you for joining us for a look at what the world center for concrete technology offers wcct represents an innovative mutually beneficial partnership between the college and private business the concrete industry's continued investment in alpena community college has resulted in a steady supply of highly educated concrete professionals who go on to become both concrete industry customers and employees the wcct is the only research facility in the world with a state-of-the-art computer-controlled besser v312 concrete masonry production plant which concrete professionals from all over the globe visit to gain master block maker certification these unique features are part of what makes the world center for concrete technology at alpena community college so respected throughout the global concrete industry community if you'd like to arrange a tour of wcct contact me acc director of alumni relations mary egan by emailing alumni alpenacc.edu