Of Students, Standards, and Engineering
Q. How did you get into engineering and the field of standards?
A. I majored in civil engineering, and I think my first exposure to standards occurred during my undergraduate studies. It is very common for a civil engineering student to learn about standard tests on soils, concrete, and other construction materials.
Later on, as a structural engineer, I was part of several construction projects in which some specifications
required the use of standards. Moreover, I conducted some experimental research during my graduate studies, and that involved some standard tests on materials and structural components.
Q. Do you believe standards in civil engineering practice are important, and if so, why?
A. Yes, I do. Standards are relevant in civil engineering for many reasons.
The development of civil infrastructure generally involves several teams of engineers with different specializations, including subcontractors, supervisors, and designers. Each of these teams is usually in charge of a very specific and specialized task, which is input for other teams. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the product delivered by one of these teams is of a high quality, otherwise, the quality of the overall project can be compromised. Standards are then used to ensure the quality of the different steps and deliverables in an infrastructure project. Moreover, the different teams are responsible for meeting the required standards in a project.
In addition, it is very common to request materials and products during a construction project. To ensure the quality of the work ahead, any material and product used in construction must have a minimum quality, which is generally assessed by standards. For instance, to ensure the adequate workability of any concrete used during construction, a slump test is generally conducted, which should follow a standard (i.e., the test method for slump of hydraulic-cement concrete, C143). Without such a standard test — a consistent protocol — the quality of the concrete can be verified by neither the supplier nor the supervisor.
READ MORE: A Student of Standards
Similar standards (e.g., specification for portland cement, C150) are required when buying cement for a construction project, for example. In addition, there are many legal aspects to the development of infrastructure. It is very important to meet the required standards in a construction project to avoid future legal issues.
Standards help civil infrastructure developers ensure the quality of their work and products as well as their safety and effectiveness. Moreover, standards help to deliver adequate construction products to the community, the final users.
Q. What are the advantages of standards to the Peruvian economy, and why are they needed?
A. There is an important infrastructure gap in Peru, and reducing it requires several efforts and policies. For instance, a national infrastructure plan (PNIC) was launched in 2019 to direct the efforts for infrastructure investment. This plan highlights that a $104 billion investment is needed over the next 20 years to reduce the infrastructure gap here. This plan recommends that several infrastructure projects in the transportation and communications sectors are to be prioritized, including the Amazon waterway, mass transportation in Lima, expansions of the Jorge Chavez International Airport, and irrigation systems in the northern regions of Peru.
As I mentioned, standards are an important aspect of the development of infrastructure, especially during the construction phase. Therefore, I believe standards will continue playing an important role in the development of infrastructure in Peru for years to come.
In addition, to accelerate infrastructure development, the Peruvian government is increasingly using the mechanism of government-to-government (G2G) agreements for the development of public infrastructure. With this G2G mechanism, it is very likely that construction projects in Peru will involve more professionals from different countries, and these professionals will need international standards to facilitate the work and to ensure the quality of the projects.
Q. How do connections with professional organizations help prepare engineering students for their work after university?
A. Joining a professional organization as an engineering student has several benefits. Students have the opportunity to develop and practice very important soft skills such as communication at different levels, attitude, teamwork, and work ethics.
Moreover, students can attend professional meetings and seminars in which they interact directly with senior professionals or even deliver speeches themselves.
More importantly, a professional organization can provide networking opportunities to students, which can lead to employment opportunities. This networking also helps students to obtain mentorships and feedback from senior engineers, which is greatly valuable. This interaction with leaders in their profession may motivate students to become professional leaders themselves.
Additionally, being engaged with a diverse professional organization such as ASTM International will help students to develop and implement ideas in a diverse, global setting.
All of these benefits can be quickly translated to a working environment.
Q. How is the ASTM student chapter impacting the engineering students at UTEC?
A. Students at UTEC have been very excited to be part of ASTM International, and since the launch of the ASTM UTEC Student Chapter, they have been very committed to making the chapter relevant to other universities in Peru and also to the professional community. The main objectives of the chapter are: 1) to encourage the use of standards among students and local professionals; 2) to organize seminars related to technologies and standards; and 3) to generate a multidisciplinary discussion among students.
Standards provide a way for a student to have a first look into what is required by the industry for construction projects. Then the student chapter is allowing our students to witness the development of standards and to get a first glance at how quality is assessed by the industry. In particular, by engaging in discussions about standards, they get to know good practices as construction engineers, for instance. All of this complements the education of our civil engineering students since they use ASTM standards to conduct tests in their classes.
On the other hand, being part of ASTM also allows our students to connect with international practices and professionals, which helps them acquire global skills. This global thinking is impacting the formation of our students as global engineers. In UTEC, we are particularly interested in educating engineers with a global mindset, so the ASTM student chapter is a good fit for UTEC.
It’s greatly beneficial for students to get involved early on with standards and with professional organizations. I think this will allow a new generation of engineers, with a better perspective and a greater commitment, to deliver better products to the general community.
Q. What has the UTEC chapter accomplished thus far, and what are its plans for the future?
A. The student chapter was initially just civil engineering students, but soon students from other engineering disciplines — mechanical, environmental, and industrial — joined the chapter, allowing for multidisciplinary discussions and events. Currently, there are 45 students registered in the chapter, with six internal committees: cement and concrete, steel, logistics, safety, geotechnical, and environmental issues.
The student chapter is positioning itself as a relevant organization for the construction industry in Peru by organizing seminars and professional meetings on relevant topics in construction engineering. Several of these seminars also discussed the adoption of standards in infrastructure projects.
Two seminars have been organized on the use of precast concrete products in construction, their impact on productivity, and the need for standards. In these seminars, Peruvian professionals discussed the potential of, and challenges to, a major adoption of precast concrete. These events had a great reception among professionals and students from other Peruvian universities. Moreover, local companies (contractors, cement producers, and others and professionals have engaged the student chapter in discussions and exchanges of information, which is beneficial for our students because they can extend their network and be part of the industry early in their careers.
On the other hand, the student chapter has also created and shared brief notices about standardization in infrastructure projects. This content is primarily shared with UTEC students on social media and UTEC’s channels.
As for future plans, the student chapter is preparing more webinars on important and multidisciplinary topics such as the geo-environmental impacts of infrastructure projects, new materials in construction, and more. The students are also planning a digital bulletin to share their experiences with standards; the launch of new and relevant standards; and undergraduate projects in the community at UTEC. Finally, there are some plans for specialized workshops on material tests according to ASTM standards for undergraduate students at UTEC and other local universities. ■