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Concrete contribution: Student project enhances Engineering Center courtyard

ASU Decorative Concrete Project
January 22, 2013

Why do the bare minimum when instead you can showcase the design creativity and engineering skills of your students – as well as display some school pride?

That’s what Arizona State University associate professor James Ernzen thought when asked if students in the Concrete Industry Management program would do some concrete work to fill in a space where a large tree had been removed from the courtyard of the Engineering Center building on the Tempe campus.

Ernzen brought the request – and his idea to turn it into a special project – to his senior-level Concrete Problems class in the fall of 2011. The students were split into teams, each assigned to produce a design to fill a circular space 16 feet in diameter with a decorative concrete slab.

Each team had to devise a construction plan and a cost estimate, and make a presentation to the director of facilities and space renovation for the engineering schools, Richard Martorano, who would choose one of the designs.

The result was recently unveiled: A nearly 10-ton, 200-square-foot, multi-colored concrete slab emblazoned with the combined logos of ASU and its Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Acid-etched into the slab artfully stained in ASU’s maroon and gold school colors, along with a copper-hued coating, is a quote from a speech by the engineering schools’ namesake, Ira A, Fulton: “What we dream, we can create; What we create, we can become.”

Amid the logos and quotation are etched depictions of some of the tools and technology associated with engineering – a compass and square, and various sizes and styles of machine cogs.

Joshua Marriott came up with the winning concept for the overall design and its varied elements. A mockup of the project earned him a prize in the Art of Concrete student competition at the 2012 American Concrete Institute convention.

But the project involved a collaboration of about 15 students in the Del E. Webb School of Construction Programs, part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

Local professionals in engineering services and construction materials also made key contributions.

Marriott’s team included Amanda Nichols and Christian Sosinski (all three have since graduated from ASU) and current engineering undergraduate Joel Price.

They worked on the excavation of the slab site and the slab installation. Del E. Webb School faculty members Ernzen and Jim Willson, and Ken Riley, an ASU alumnus and a manager with the W.R. Grace construction company, guided students throughout the endeavor, helping with project management and application.

A big contribution came from Tamryn Doolan, owner of Surface Gel Tek, a company that provides graphics and chemical etching techniques for decorative concrete projects. Doolan, who sometimes guest lectures in concrete construction classes, has assisted ASU engineering students in several projects requiring expertise in concrete use.

The Cemex company donated the concrete and the J.F. Ellis Corp. concrete contractors put the concrete in place and helped form the slab and apply surface finishing.

“This was a great experience. We were able to use our four years of construction management education to plan and manage a real and complex project,” Marriott says.

“Then we were able to get our hands dirty and create something beautiful that can have a long life here on the ASU campus,” he adds. “It’s a tribute to our time spent as ASU students, as well as a monument to the Schools of Engineering and those who make them what it are.”