Since the PCI Foundation first started sponsoring precast studios in 2007, we have written a lot about them and noted all the wonderful things that happen while we work with the school of architecture, engineering or construction management through our grant program. And yet, the PCI Foundation program was never designed to provide grants to schools as a long term financial commitment. It is meant to be an incubator for long term precast/prestressed concrete programs. From the beginning the PCI Foundation has used our program to introduce the faculty and administration not only to precast concrete design and construction, to help foster relationships between the local industry and the school, to show advantages to teaching precast concrete design and construction, and to start seeing more students graduate from strong precast programs in order to become professionals with good precast concrete skills and understanding.
What we are finding, in addition to the original goals above, is that professors at research institutions are also turning to precast/prestressed concrete topics for research and receiving funding from other sources, even after the grant is complete. When the PCI Foundation is finished paying the grant, the relationships we have fostered and the new knowledge of the professor are integral parts of continuing precast/prestressed concrete programs.
A success story for what comes after the grant is the program at the University of North Florida (UNF) and Dr. Adel ElSafty. The original grant for UNF started in 2009 and finished in 2015. Dr. ElSafty used his grant to begin a prestressed concrete program at UNF that included guest lectures, continuing education for local engineers in precast topics, Big Beam Competition Teams, a prestressed concrete design course, a Bridge Engineering Course and precast concrete related research. Since the grant finished, the program has continued with only a short break while Dr. ElSafty took a subbatical to travel to Dubai for six months as part of a Fulbright Scholarship where much of his time was spent studying precast concrete construction.
Graduates from the UNF program now work at engineering organizations such as RS&H, Alfred Benesch & Co., HDR (Ports & Harbors), NASA, Parsons, the US Navy and the Florida Department of Transportation. The school of engineering continues to offer a course in Prestressed Concrete Design as well as including prestressed design in the Bridge Engineering Course. He continues to work closely with Gate Precast and other Florida prestressed producers to carry on his work teaching and researching prestresed concrete at the University and in collaboration with other universities. He also continues to work with the PCI Research and Development Committee and other professors involved with PCI.
For Dr. ElSafty and the studio, the studio program led directly to research grants, showed that the school could do precast research, place students at firms or agencies that specialize in precast projects and has continued even after the grant finished. Much of the research and writing Dr. ElSafty has taken on in the last few years has been in the precast concrete arena.
His outside funded research includes:
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) - Degradation mechanisms and service life estimation of fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) concrete reinforcements (2015-2018)
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) - Empirical Deck for Phased Construction and Widening (March 2013-Feb. 2016)
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) - Testing, Evaluation and Specification for Polymeric Materials (SM)-13-09)
The Repair of Damaged Bridge Girders with Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer CFRP Laminates (2014-2017)
Florida Department of Transportation, "Degradation Assessment of Internal Continuous Fiber Reinforcement in Concrete Environment" (2011-2014)
Teaching & Scholarship Awards
PCI Educator of the Year (2015)
Fulbright US Scholar (2015-2016)
Runner-up "Distinguished Professor Award" UNF (2016)
Service Awards include:
National Team Advisor Award (PCI) - National Champion of Big Beam Engineering Design Competition, 1st and 2nd places in Southeast region and 6th place nationally (2013)
National Team Advisor Award (PCI) - National Champion of Big Beam Engineering Design Competition, 1st place in Southeast region and 4th place nationally (2012)
All of these things are taking place today in a school that didn't even have a prestressed concrete class when we started working with them in 2009. All of these awards, publications and research, combined with an excellent relationship with the local precast industry have made the continuation of this PCI Foundation program after the grant an enormous success at the University of North Florida.