Nothing stifles innovation quite like fear of failure. Tyler Ley, P.E., Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Oklahoma State University, seems to have no fear; he just keeps putting himself out there. His YouTube educational videos number over 200 with more coming. “I try to make three each week,” he says. “People keep asking me questions, so I keep coming up with ideas. I think there’s still a lot I can do.”

His concrete mania started early, motivated by an industry giant.

“Bryant Mather came to town when I was a sophomore at Oklahoma State University, and I will never forget it. The hair on my neck stood up and didn’t go down for two days. I wanted to be a bridge engineer, so I did that (at Texas DOT) for a while. But people kept asking me about concrete, so I decided to make teaching them my life’s mission.”

Along the way, he keeps inventing ways to do it better, such as:

  • PulpCure, a wet-curing blanket made from shredded recycled newspaper, water, and proprietary chemicals. “We’ve used it on three bridges in Oklahoma and it works. It’s biodegradable, holds water longer than wet burlap, uses less labor, and is cheaper.”
  • Tarantula Curve started as a tool to get better aggregate proportioning through gradation; but now the focus is on advancing materials knowledge, mix design principles, and, most importantly, optimized concrete.
  • A study funded partly by the American Concrete Pumping Association shows pumping may not reduce air content as widely believed. “We measured air before and after the pump to get insight into how it works. We went to 65 field sites and found the same thing we found in the lab: The important bubbles come back. We threw away a lot of concrete when I worked in the industry that I now wish we hadn’t!”
  • Developed as part of a long-term project on freeze-thaw damage, Super Air Meter (SAM) is used in 39 states and nine other countries.
  • Phoenix is an 8-minute water-cement ratio test for fresh concrete. “That parameter has the biggest impact for durability and strength. We’ve investigated more than 300 mixtures, and the Federal Highway Administration is investigating it.”
  • Sticking a C-Tag on the inside of a mold embeds a bar code in the cylinder’s surface. “My students have been making apps so you can scan the C-Tag before you make the cylinder and input the GPS coordinates, weather, slump, unit weight, air, and SAM number. It all goes to the cloud, so you have complete information about that concrete. It’s being used by six organizations and is about to be rolled out to many more and used for field testing.”

And he’s far from finished. “People have to realize they’re not building a concrete structure for tomorrow. They’re building it for their grandkids, and that’s a huge responsibility.”