Concrete Ideas

A group of Bradley students had the opportunity to meet with industry professionals and state leaders at the 27th ICAT conference. (Photo courtesy Dr. Amir Al-Khafaji)

By Matt Hawkins
April 25, 2014

Bradley engineering students had a unique opportunity to learn from state leaders and transportation experts at the 27th Innovation Conference on Asphalt and Transportation April 8-9.

The conference brought together more than 500 engineers, transportation leaders and state officials.  It gave 30 Bradley students the ability to network and learn about public infrastructure challenges.

This year’s conference looked at sustainable means to maintain infrastructure, with discussions on matters related to transportation, asphalt and operations. A panel of legislators dialogued about future infrastructure funding, while breakout sessions touched on topics such as road conditions in winter, lessons from the Indianapolis Super Bowl traffic control and funding for Indiana's ongoing Interstate-69 expansion.

“Events such as ICAT are vital to success within my education and soon-to-be professional career,” said civil engineering major Haley Sack ’13. “Opportunities such as this provide students with motivation as well as relationships with professionals in their field.”

She took advantage of the conference to broaden her knowledge through lectures and conversations with officials and businesspeople.

“Even though my concentration isn’t within transportation, asphalt or pavement, I believe it’s important to be well-rounded,” she said. “This was an opportunity for me to learn of subjects outside my area of study but still within industries I’ll be working with.”

By participating in the seminars, students learned the importance of public-private partnerships to the business world.

“The students begin to understand the state of technology and innovation, understanding that companies need to get funding for projects to be built and for graduates to be hired,” said conference founder Dr. Amir Al-Khafaji.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Secretary of Transportation Ann Schneider spoke to rally support for a new capital construction bill to replace the 2009 funding set to expire later this year. They pointed to highway-related improvements such as 190,000 construction jobs, 7,700 miles paved and 1,300 bridges repaired.

“That helped bring the state out of recession,” Schneider said. “We’re slowly building the state’s economy and we’re proud to be part of that.”

In addition to Quinn and Schneider, speakers included Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, Peoria mayor Jim Ardis, ADM Vice-President Greg Webb, three speakers form Caterpillar Inc., Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Doug Whitley, Swedish Transportation Administration Senior Advisor Jan Olander, James Whitty, a pioneer in Vehicle Miles Traveled from Oregon, and others.

ICAT is a two-day conference that brings together scholars, policymakers, engineers and business executives. Speakers are leaders from the Midwest, US, and around the world. The 2014 ICAT saw a record attendance, premier sponsorship, speakers, VIP events, speakers, exhibitors and provided more than 40 high school and middle school minority students from central Illinois opportunities to meet with prominent leaders and speakers.