A lifetime of learning
By Mike Anderson, P.E.
Asphalt Institute Director of Research and Lab Services
It’s a great time of the year in Kentucky. Spring is in full swing in most areas. Temperatures are generally comfortable. Celebrations abound: The Kentucky Derby; Cinco de Mayo; Mother’s Day; Memorial Day. And of course the biggest of all May celebrations…Star Wars Day
! May the fourth. As in “May the fourth be with you” for those of you who aren’t familiar with the proper greeting on that special day.
I was watching "Star Wars Episode 2" with my son the other night and started thinking about the parallels between Star Wars and the NBTC program. Seriously. It’s just how my mind works sometimes.
What kind of parallels you ask? Well consider…
Many are called, but few are chosen
Maybe a bit dramatic for asphalt binder testing, but still it is a small community of binder technicians. Much like the Jedi.
Listen to your master
Or senior technician or supervisor, whatever. Calling him or her “master” may be a bit much for a binder testing lab. We certainly don’t recommend contributing to their delusions of grandeur. Regardless, the Jedi Master and senior technician/supervisor is responsible for training the Padawan/apprentice in the ways of the force…and the DSR. Once sufficiently skilled, the Padawan is ready to take on…
To become a Jedi Knight, the former Padawan must pass a series of trials which include (according to Wookieepedia) the trials of skill, courage, flesh, spirit and insight. Maybe a little tougher than the NBTC trials which really only require skill
(lab proficiency exam) and insight
“The trials are difficult. Many try and fail, so I advise you not to be complacent.”
―Grand Master Satele Shan
“Woooo, it’s tough.”
―NBTC Master Trainer Mike Beavin
Continue your training
Jedi Masters didn’t just kick back and chillax after reaching the status of “master.” They kept training; improving their skills and knowledge of the force. Similarly, being a certified binder technician isn’t the end of your training. Skills can be sharpened. Knowledge of asphalt can be gained.
Lifelong education means that we all continue to learn and give back to our community. I believe it is important in every endeavor, whether we are protecting the republic or grading an asphalt binder. Get involved in technician workshops. Participate in ASTM and other industry meetings. Provide guidance on testing procedures. Your input just might help improve the standard for the next generation of younglings.
Jedi references courtesy of Wookieepedia at http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/. At this website, references abound.
Product review: Lab Lease Paper
With the busiest time of year rapidly approaching for labs all across the globe, I am very pleased to bring you all a tech tip that has been an absolute game changer for us here at AI headquarters.
Being involved in testing for many different performance grades and research projects, there are times when it is necessary to use alternative tactics to get the binder hot and liquid enough to pour. When we have performed research projects on extremely stiff material such as RAS (recovered asphalt shingles) binder we have had to heat samples up in ovens with elevated temperatures. Naturally this made the binder much hotter and when it came time to run beams on the Bending Beam Rheometer (BBR), we ran into some issues in relation to our molds. The transparent plastic strips that we were using were sometimes actually melting into the samples!
When this first happened, we contacted the company that we got our strips from and requested a different plastic material to use. Unfortunately, the outcome was no different when put to the test.
And then Lab Lease Paper entered my life. One particular research project that we were doing required that we put our already assembled BBR molds into the oven for five to ten minutes before pouring the beams. Unfortunately, the transparent plastic strips we were using melted and we were unable to do them. So we looked into getting some silicone coated paper strips that we felt like could handle the heat better, and discovered Lab Lease Paper sheets.
We ordered several sheets of it from hmalabsupply.com
and brought the paper to a copy store and had them cut into the exact dimensions to fit our BBR mold pieces. My goodness is this stuff awesome! Now, I am fully aware that it may say something about my life that I am this excited about paper. I get it, I sound like Dwight Schrute (from ‘The Office’). But I run anywhere from five to twelve sets of beams daily in the summer, and this stuff has made my job so much easier for several reasons.
- It adheres to the molds better, never loosening away from the pieces while I am pouring.
- Even the thinnest grades of asphalt I have used on it peel right off, without dipping in the bath.
- It has not melted at the high temperature testing.
- It is considerably cheaper than the plastic transparent strips we were using before.
- The beams come out smooth and perfect, and because the paper comes off so smoothly, the strips are actually quite reusable if you would like.
Out of all of the tech tips that I have written, I would recommend trying this tip out the most. And feel free to let me know what you think by emailing me
(DISCLAIMER: Please note that while the silicone paper is allowed in ASTM 6648 it is not currently addressed in the AASHTO T313 procedure. We recommend checking the appropriate standards before use.)
- Madison Pohl, Asphalt Institute Asphalt Materials Technician
Angie Alvarado, Lab Supervisor
HollyFrontier Refining and Marketing, LLC in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Angie has worked in the asphalt industry for 10 years. In her current role as lab supervisor she does everything from formulations to experimental trials. She also works with quality control testing.
Angie says she learned a lot as a graduate of the NBTC program. "I realized that there are so many things that affect the quality that occurs," she added.
She encourages her co-workers to become NBTC certified as it will help them understand how to have good test results.