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Abhishek Ray

Cooperative Education Report and Evaluation

SDSM&T, Dept. of Geology and Geol. Engineering
May-November 2015

Over the last six months I was working with Braun Intertec, a company which offers
testing and consulting services. I was based out of the Dickinson lab in western North Dakota.
Work mostly comprised of two parts, concrete material testing or soil testing. Some parts of
these tests were done on the field and some in the lab. Along with the technical knowledge that I
gained working for this company, I also learned how a business is managed and how things are
operated in the workplace.

In the soil testing section we would either run a proctor or gradation on that samples that
were brought in the lab based on the requirement on the client.

The worksheet on the left shows a blank proctor worksheet used at Braun Intertec
At first all the details in the top most column would be filled out with corresponding tag in
the sample bag for future reference. As per the requirements of the client, specification of
ASTM/AASHTO and standard/modified would be given to us. For a proctor, we would run the
whole sample through a 4 sieve and if the amount of rocks comprised of less than 5% of the
total sample we discard the rocks and they would not be part of our testing process. Thus we
would be following procedure A which reads (4 mold) Cumulative mass on #4 in 5% or less,
discard +#4.
If the rocks collected on the #4 sieve is more than 5% of the total sample we would run
them thru an electrically powered mechanical shaker for ten minutes. The order of the sieves
would be , , 4 and an empty pan. The amount of sediment/rocks collected in each layer
would be measured separately which would be imperative in deciding which procedure we
would use.

In the figure above it shows the two types of proctor tests that were done on the soil
samples along with the size of mold to be used, the size of the hammer to be used and the
number of lifts to be performed. On most of the inner city commercial projects, the standard
proctor was used while on the DOT (Department of Transportation) it would be modified.
Before we began pounding we had to make 4-5 samples with the virgin soil and start
adding water to one until we felt that it was was at the optimum level. When at the optimum level
it would appear really solid and when tried to squeeze it between the index finger and thumb,
should start to ribbon. Once we had this estimated optimum moisture content, we can add
percentages of water in the samples and start compacting it with the hammer in the appropriate
mold. Although if the sample is clayey we have to let it sit for a while so that the moisture gets
evenly distributed. Also notice that the no. of layers/lifts that are to be compacted separately is
different with the proctor being modified/standard or the procedure being A/C. For instance, I
expected the optimum moisture content to be at 8%, I would pound a sample with a 4%, a 6%
and lets say that at 8% the weight drops and we can visibly see a bit of moisture leaving the
gaps of the mold, it is a good indication that the optimum moisture is somewhere between six
and eight percent. And then we can go ahead and do a 10% moisture to make sure that there is
no further rise in the weight. Essentially what we are trying to determine here is the percentage
of water at which the soil is most dense. The middle portion of the pounded soil sample would
be left for drying in the oven at 220F overnight to get the moisture lost and find the moisture
content of each using the formula, ((moisture lost)/(dried soil))*100. For the classification of the

soil, a separate 200 wash sample (virgin soil) of about 200-300g would be dried in the oven and
washed until all the very fine particles that can go thru the #200 sieve are removed by
repeatedly washing it until we can see the water is not murky anymore. We would again let this
one dry and find the % passing thru the #200 sieve. This is the best method of separating silts
and clays from sands and gravels.
Now that we know the optimum moisture and dry density of the soil sample from the lab
we can use a nuclear density gauge in the field to find the percentage of compaction of the soil.
At times I had to ask the contractors to add more water or let it dry depending on the optimum
moisture from the gauge. We had to take a separate safety certification course for the handling
of the density gauge due to the presence of radioactive substance in the equipment.
In the CMT (Construction Material Testing) section I didnt do much work although we
had to get certified as a ACI(American Concrete Institute) Field Technician I after passing
in both written and practical exam. But I worked a lot on breaking concrete cylinders of sizes

4X8, 6X12 and 2X2 mortar cubes.

The picture on the left is the compression machine we used to break concrete cylinders. After
these cylinders were casted they were put in a water tank with chlorine in it. The temperature
was also maintained in these tanks. As per the requirement of the client these cylinders were
broken on various days most commonly being a 7 day, a 14 and a 28 day break. It had to reach
the certain psi strength with a certain day for the client to take decision based on those results.
For instance, a roundabout being built in Watford City waited for the results of the strength of the
cylinders before opening it for general traffic.

This machine was also used to break gypsum capped soil cement plugs. These were basically
pounded the same way a general proctor would be done. But their sample is a mixture of soil
and cement which was being used as a sub base layer for the highway reconstruction project.


This image above shows the various load

rates for different sized of concrete cylinders
or cubes.
The image above shows the metal mold on which

the soil cements were capped with gypsum

Apart from all the technical skills that I have acquired working with Braun Intertec, I have
developed my time management skills greatly. Such conditions really gave me a taste of the
time is money logic. I have a whole lot of appreciation now for this industry especially the
people who are working at the grass root level. At the same time I was amazed at the way they
looked out for each other on site and at the lab. They really knew how to keep the moral high be
it in a hot and dusty environment or a chilly dry cold day. At Braun, safety was given great
importance as we would have safety meeting every month and we could discuss any safety
issues that we felt could have been serious. And our supervisors appreciated that and made
sure that we we feel safe at all times whether it is in the lab or on site. I have developed great
work ethics working for Braun. The fellow workers were very friendly and were always ready to
lend a helping hand whenever needed. As I continue my studies at SDSMT, I will try to use the
skills that I have learned during this co-op and it will be of great help if I end up working in the
geotechnical industry.