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MTSU concrete students thrive in pre-race ‘mix’ fo...

MTSU concrete students thrive in pre-race ‘mix’ for Aug. 8 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix CEO and MTSU alumnus Matt Crews, left in white shirt, observes as MTSU Concrete Industry Management senior and Missouri native Cody Gange, center left, and lab assistant and senior T.J. Paul of Readyville, Tenn., right, assist concrete industry professor Heather Brown, center, with making an eco-friendly concrete mix inside a lab in the Voorhees Engineering Technology Building on the Murfreesboro, Tenn., campus in a November 2020 photo. The mix will be tested for use in race barriers for the Aug. 8 race in downtown Nashville. In the background, from left, are alumnus Denny Lind of Master Builders Solutions, and MTSU senior Concrete Industry Management majors Austin Gaydosh of Rockvale, Tenn., and Autumn Gates of Murfreesboro. Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has a formal partnership agreement with MTSU and its CIM program. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

Autumn Gates can already anticipate the rush of IndyCars reaching 200 mph soon in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.

But the MTSU alumna and former Concrete Industry Management student is equally excited about taking some of her Irving Materials Inc. customers to the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix and getting goose bumps seeing some of her work and that of her peers on display and playing a critical role in the race.

Recent MTSU graduate Autumn Gates participated in a senior class lab project where students researched and tested environmentally friendly concrete mix as part of barrier wall and pit lane for the Aug. 6-8 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT IndyCar Race in downtown Nashville, Tenn. MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center will be featured in the 7 p.m. Aug. 6 festivities. The grand prix race starts at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 8. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

Recent MTSU graduate Autumn Gates is shown after participating in a senior class lab project where students researched and tested environmentally friendly concrete mix as part of a barrier wall and pit lane for the Aug. 6-8 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT IndyCar Race in downtown Nashville, Tenn. MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center will be featured in the 7 p.m. Aug. 6 festivities. The grand prix race starts at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 8. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

Through a partnership between the university and race organizers signed last fall, Gates and 15 students in professor Heather Brown’s senior lab class helped research and test an environmentally friendly concrete mixture for both a barrier wall and pit lane.

Many will attend the NTT IndyCar Series race, which begins at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, on the 2.17-mile course on city streets.

They will watch as Nashville’s Josef Newgarden and Indy Racing League points leaders Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and Scott Dixon navigate the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge and road course at such high speeds. More than 100,000 spectators are expected to attend three days of food, music and racing.

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU president

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee

Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives

Keith M. Huber

At a 7 p.m. Aug. 6 Freedom Friday Tribute Concert to honor military, police, fire, first responders and frontline heroes in Nissan Stadium’s parking lot, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, will be on stage as a video featuring the late country music legend Charlie Daniels plays to bring awareness to military charities, including MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center.

On race day, MTSU concrete students and alumni like Gates will be looking on knowing that they’ve made a unique contribution to this inaugural event.

“It was awesome and cool as students helping out with this national race, especially working with students I had been in school with the past four years,” said Gates, 22, a Murfreesboro resident, May graduate and the third generation in her family to pursue a career in the concrete industry.

Students were asked to take a look at mixes for the barrier wall that would be implemented by the grand prix and Ashland City, Tennessee-based Jarrett Concrete Products — the precast company led by MTSU alumni owner Travis Jarrett and business development manager Frank Bowen.

Irving Materials Inc. produced and delivered the pit row concrete, which was integrally colored black to blend in with the rest of the asphalt parking lot surrounding Titans Stadium. MTSU’s Brown monitored the installation and hardened testing to ensure the concrete would withstand race conditions.

Gates, whose father, Clark Gates, and grandmother, Betty Gates, preceded her in the industry, said students evaluated the mix design and weighed out the materials, adding that they had to “mix through a (two-minute) period of time, let it rest and then mix it for three minutes.

“We had to test the concrete, so we ran a slump for the consistency and flowability of the concrete. We ran the density to find the unit weight of the concrete. We ran an air test to see how much air was in the concrete. We ran a temperature on the concrete.”

They created concrete beams and 4-x-8-inch cylinders as part of the test.

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix CEO and MTSU alumnus Matt Crews, left in white shirt, observes as MTSU Concrete Industry Management senior and Missouri native Cody Gange, center left, and lab assistant and senior T.J. Paul of Readyville, Tenn., right, assist concrete industry professor Heather Brown, center, with making an eco-friendly concrete mix inside a lab in the Voorhees Engineering Technology Building on the Murfreesboro, Tenn., campus in a November 2020 photo. The mix will be tested for use in race barriers for the Aug. 8 race in downtown Nashville. In the background, from left, are alumnus Denny Lind of Master Builders Solutions, and MTSU senior Concrete Industry Management majors Austin Gaydosh of Rockvale, Tenn., and Autumn Gates of Murfreesboro. Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has a formal partnership agreement with MTSU and its CIM program. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix CEO and MTSU alumnus Matt Crews, at left in a white shirt, observes as MTSU concrete industry management senior and Missouri native Cody Gange, center left, and lab assistant and senior T.J. Paul of Readyville, Tenn., right, help concrete industry professor Heather Brown, center, make an eco-friendly concrete mix inside a lab in MTSU’s Voorhees Engineering Technology Building in a November 2020 file photo. The mix will be tested for use in race barriers for the Aug. 8 Grand Prix race in downtown Nashville. In the background, from left, are alumnus Denny Lind of Master Builders Solutions and MTSU senior concrete industry management majors Austin Gaydosh of Rockvale, Tenn., and Autumn Gates of Murfreesboro. Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has a formal partnership agreement with MTSU and its Concrete Industry Management Program. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

In November with MTSU alumnus and Big Machine Music City Grand Prix CEO Matt Crews in the lab, students reenacted the tests.

Dr. Heather Brown, School of Concrete and Construction Management

Dr. Heather Brown

The partnership calls for MTSU to provide the race with future guidance on barrier construction, suppliers and vendors. The grand prix will offer a minimum of two internships to qualified undergraduate students each year.

“We are working to create environmentally conscious concrete mixes while not sacrificing durability and strength for the race barriers and pit lane,” said Brown, noting that more eco-friendly mixes could reduce energy and landfill impacts.

“This partnership will create advanced learning experiences for students and expand our manufacturing relationships,” she added. “Experiential learning is what MTSU works hard to bring to their students, and it wouldn’t be possible without Music City Grand Prix’s commitment to local institutions as well as STEM education and the trades.”

MTSU’s Concrete Industry Management Program is part of the School of Concrete and Construction Management in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

A sampling of 2,200 concrete barriers created for the Aug. 6-8 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT IndyCar race in downtown Nashville, Tenn., are show at Jarrett Concrete Products in Ashland City, Tenn. In a partnership with the grand prix, MTSU Concrete Industry Management students researched and tested the mix used to create the barriers to be used in the racing events. (Submitted photo)

A sampling of 2,200 concrete barriers created for the Aug. 6-8 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT IndyCar race in downtown Nashville, Tenn., are shown at Jarrett Concrete Products in Ashland City, Tenn. In a partnership with the racing organization, MTSU Concrete Industry Management students researched and tested the mix used to create the barriers to be used in the racing events. (Submitted photo)


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