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Asphalt Paving Receives Major Support
Concrete isn’t the only paving material making a dent in Michigan Tech’s research program.
Students can dig their heels into asphalt, too, thanks to the Thompson Scholars Program. The program supports education and research related to asphalt paving and established a Student Enterprise—a business-like team focusing on real-world paving projects.
The Thompson Scholars Program also supports 100 undergraduate students with full-tuition in-state scholarships, six graduate students, equipment, and the Student Enterprise.
Bob and Ellen Thompson made all of this possible with a $3.5 million gift to the university in 1999. Thompson sold his paving company, Thompson-McCully Asphalt Company, then distributed $128 million to his employees and made a number of other charitable gifts.
Michigan Tech has used the gift to establish the Bechthold-Thompson Asphaltic Pavement Lab. This facility is used by faculty researchers and by the Pavement Design, Construction, and Materials Enterprise. The enterprise is the business-like team, involving 30 students, who gain experience on real-world projects.
“The enterprise program is dramatically different from the traditional approach to educating undergraduates,” said George Dewey, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Instead of asking students to come up with the ‘right’ answer, it starts with open-ended problems and asks student to work on the constant challenge of creating better performance at lower cost.”
The pavement enterprise focuses on pavement design, integration of pavement and mixture design, materials development and selection, hot mix asphalt design, and construction aspects of the road pavement industry.