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ISU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering receives $110k grant to offer precast concrete engineering design studio

April 24, 2019

POCATELLO – The Idaho State University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has received about $110,000 to offer a precast concrete engineering design studio.

ISU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering receives $110k grant to offer precast concrete engineering design studio
From left, ISU faculty Bruce Savage and Mustafa Mashal; Marty McIntyre, executive director at PCI Foundation; and ISU students Corey Marshall, Jared Cantrell and Ali Shokrgozar at the PCI Convention and National Bridge Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

ISU is in the process of building this class with the help of about $110,000 of generous support from the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) and National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) Foundations and PCI Mountain States.

This is the first jointly funded engineering studio by PCI and NPCA Foundations focused on bridges and culverts in the nation.

“The design studio will be much different than a traditional class,” said Mustafa Mashal, ISU assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It will involve the industry and include hands-on types of activities. Visits to precast yards, observing the construction of a bridge/culvert, speakers from the industry, a final competition including construction and testing of concrete bridges and culverts, and other relevant activities are all part of this class.”

“Industry champions from across several states have shown interest to support the precast studio at ISU,” Mashal said.

 These include the followings:

• Forterra Structural Precast in Salt Lake City, Utah and Caldwell

• Oldcastle Infrastructure in Spokane, Washington

• Teton Prestress Concrete in Idaho Falls

• PCI Mountain States Region, Denver, Colorado

• Forterra in Helena, Montana

• Forterra in Billings, Montana 

• Idaho Transportation Department Bridge Section in Boise

The PCI Foundation and NPCA will each cover half of the total cost for the design studio with a total amount of $85,129.  In addition, PCI Foundation and PCI Mountain States will cover up to $24,400 in travel funds for ISU faculty and students to attend the annual PCI Convention and National Bridge Conference for the next four years. The ISU co-principal investigator on the project is Bruce Savage, chair and associate professor of ISU civil and environmental engineering. 

“Hands-on education is one of the best ways to learn,” Savage said. “The design studio will allow us to strengthen the number of real-world projects in our curriculum.  This will make our graduating engineers better prepared to contribute to the civil engineering profession,”

“This is an exciting development for Idaho State University,” Mashal said. “Modular construction using precast concrete is not limited to civil infrastructure, but also energy and other industries. The department of energy and Idaho National Laboratory are interested in topics related to small modular reactors (SMRs), and other modular energy systems. The potential for precast concrete in both civil and energy sectors is significant. In addition to precast bridges, ISU has several research projects related to precast concrete structures in the structural lab.” 

Savage added that training the next generation of civil and environmental engineers that will continue to make significant contributions to societies’ infrastructure is a key value in his department’s mission. 

 “ISU's reputation in precast concrete teaching/research has been increasing,” Mashal said. “ISU has been building partnerships with several precasters around the mountain states. There is a growing interest in precast concrete among the students in our department.”

He said that ISU has great facilities, including a large-scale testing facility where bridge and building specimens can be tested for their strength and a water resources lab for testing hydraulic structures.

“Forterra Structural Precast is excited to participate in this new design studio with ISU,” said Jonathan Kirk, general manager. “It will be a tremendous opportunity for students to develop their technical knowledge with perspective to the challenges faced in the real world of bridge construction.  Being able to bring students into our manufacturing facilities and understand how precast concrete bridge components are made is an experience that will help them in their careers and them having knowledge to bring to their future jobs will help our industry grow and be more effective and economical in the future.”

John Dobbs, executive director of Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Mountain States Region said, “The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Mountain States Region is looking forward to supporting this joint PCI and NPCA Foundation Precast Concrete Transportation Engineering Design Studio at ISU by providing student classroom lectures and numerous technical resources available from PCI.”

“This relationship between ISU and the Precast Concrete Industry should be very rewarding and beneficial to both the students and industry,” Dobbs said.

Melissa Verwest, technical sales engineer at Oldcastle Infrastructure, said that the development of a hands-on experience at the academic level through programs such as the ISU design studio will better prepare students who will be the next industry contributors.

“While Oldcastle Infrastructure is an Industry Champion for ISU in the present, the education opportunities developed though collaboration of industry experience and academic training will provide precast companies with Champions of precast concrete in the future,” Verwest said.  

 “Teton Prestress Concrete is excited to give life to ISU's future prestressed/precast concrete engineers,” said Hal Simmons, owner and manager at Teton Prestress Concrete. “We are more than honored to teach and donate our knowledge to future leaders of this industry, for it is they who will continue the work expanding the concrete world.”

ISU civil engineering graduate students Jared Cantrell, Corey Marshall, and Ali Shokrgozar and faculty Mashal and Savage recently attended the PCI Convention and National Bridge Conference, Feb. 26-March 2 in Louisville, Kentucky, where they presented about the studio and ISU research in precast concrete. Ali Shokrgozar, Ph.D. student, also participated in the new Project Precast competition.

“I had the chance to compete in the Project Precast among many other candidates from around the nation who applied for this opportunity. I enjoyed the experience of working in a team environment on a precast concrete project assigned by the judges,” said Ali Shokrgozar.


Idaho State University, a Carnegie-classified doctoral high research activity university and teaching institution founded in 1901, attracts students from around the world to its Idaho campuses. At the main campus in Pocatello, and at locations in Meridian, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls, ISU has nine Colleges, a Graduate School and a Division of Health Sciences that together offer more than 250 certificate and degree programs. More than 12,000 students attend ISU. Idaho State University is the state's designated lead institution in health professions.

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