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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Weyers instructs students at Beeks

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 5 - September 22, 1994

Forty-five fifth graders at Margaret Beeks Elementary School in Blacksburg recently participated in a two-week project creating and testing concrete beams.

The project was led by Richard Weyers, professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech.

During the first week, each student mixed a batch of normal weight and a batch of lightweight concrete. The students filled small plastic cups with the concrete mixes. Then, working in teams of three, they mixed a batch of concrete with a superplasticizer admixture and cast their beams. The following week the students weighed their cups of concrete and recorded those measurements. They used these measurements to determine the average and range of the weights of their samples. By suspending their beam between two desks and filling a bucket hanging from the beam with half-pound sections of reenforcing bar, each team tested their beam to breaking.

One fifth-grader characterized the experiment: "It was neat how the suspense grew as the loads became weighty and the excited gasps when the beams collapsed."

Weyers said the program taught the students how chemistry, mathematics, and engineering are combined to build concrete structures. They also learned how materials suppliers, architects, and engineers work together to build buildings and bridges.

The project was a cooperative effort between industry and higher education. New River Concrete and Capital Cement Company provided financial support and personnel to work with the students. Virginia Tech's Department of Civil Engineering provided undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members who gave their time to set up the programs, prepare the materials, and work with the students.