June 2, 2005
What you can do with cement, sand, gravel and a little water - that was the challenge for local high school students in the first Concrete Challenge sponsored by Pennsy Supply, Inc., held in cooperation with HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College.

Students from Dauphin County Vo-Tech and the Harrisburg Career and Technology Academy competed to produce concrete that was tested to match or exceed predetermined strength and weight characteristics. The high schools worked on several cylinders of concrete of various strengths since October. Students studied the components of concrete, mixed several batches and prepared oral presentations. The final part of the competition - where the amount of force to break the cylinders was measured - was held recently at the laboratory and material testing center at Pennsy Supply, Inc., on Paxton Street in Harrisburg.

The students gained first-hand knowledge about the versatility of concrete, its applications, strength and durability.

"While this is a great start to the Concrete Challenge, we want to bring more high schools into the contest," said HACC associate professor of civil technology, Janka Ovcharovichova, P.E. "Believe it or not, there are many new advancements in preparing concrete, and students have to be ready. The Concrete Challenge is an excellent way to give hands-on experience to students, both high school and college, as well as the added benefit of working in a real world environment with Pennsy Supply."

Milan Lipensky, concrete quality control manager for Pennsy Supply, approached HACC with the idea for the competition. The concept became a required capstone project for two of HACC's civil technology students, Bill Warden, of Enola, and Ben Smith, of Harrisburg. They helped Ovcharovichova visit high schools, prepare contest rules in accordance with the American Concrete Institute, compile handouts for the student presentations and served as judges for the contest.

Admixtures, Inc. and the Lehigh Cement Company, Inc. contributed materials to the high schools for the Concrete Challenge. The high school teams were led by Micahel Zorek, masonry instructor at the Dauphin County Vo-Tech and Terry Miller, masonry instructor at the Harrisburg Career and Technology Academy. Pennsy Supply awarded tools and supplies to both high schools for participating.

"The plan for the Concrete Challenge is to continue to make it grow," Ovcharovichova said. "It's important that young people become familiar with the wide range of expertise that falls within civil technology, and know there is a need for capable people to find ways to improve our roadways and building construction."

HACC's civil technology program is designed for students to earn an associate's degree, certificate or diploma and move into the civil engineering field. The program is one of more than 130 programs of study offered at HACC, where nearly 16,000 students are enrolled at five locations in Harrisburg, Lancaster, Gettysburg, Lebanon and York.

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