Grad student Schmidt takes first place for presentation at IHEEP convention
Calendar Icon Oct 15, 2014 Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel RSS
Tyler Schmidt, a graduate research assistant at UNL’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, was awarded first place in the student presentations on Oct. 1 at the International Highway Engineering Exchange Program Conference in New Orleans.
Schmidt earned a $1,000 prize for the presentation of research into the development of a low-maintenance, energy-absorbing vertical barrier that could be used to decrease the severity of vehicular crashes on urban highways.
The new barrier, which Schmidt said is a continuation of work done by post-doc Jennifer Schmidt, is a real-world application of the research that led to SAFER barriers, which were created by the MRSF a decade ago after the NASCAR crash-related death of driver Dale Earnhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500.
“We wanted to find the same kind of energy-absorbing barrier to put on a highway for regular use,” Tyler Schmidt said. “This barrier would do kind of the same function, where the barrier dissipates some of the energy of the car and reduces the deceleration of the car by about 30 percent.”
While the SAFER barriers put padding between a guard rail and the walls that surround the race track, this vertical barrier would have a concrete rail attached to a series of vertical rubber posts. This design, Schmidt said, is only 22 inches wide and would occupy a space of no more than 3 feet wide when installed in the medians of high-speed urban highways.
Schmidt, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from UNL in May and is now working on a Master’s in Construction Management, said the high level of work done at the MRSF helped him stay confident about his presentation, even though he had an unenviable time slot.
“I was the last one to go up,” Schmidt said. “There aren’t a lot of people around the United States who do research close to what we do at Midwest.
“Most of the other projects were basically about the same kind of ideas about pavement design. Mine was roadside hardware where you get to crash a vehicle into a barrier. People don’t see that every day. I got a lot of comments, saying ‘that’s the way to end it, just have a vehicle crash into a barrier.’ And I did … not at the conference, but I showed them some videos.”