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By the time you read this, my daughter may have finally decided where she will attend college, at least as a freshman. Like a careful shopper, she has approached this selection in the same manner she eventually purchased her prom dress. Her plan is simple: Visit every possible store, search for the right fit, and then try to urge a soft-hearted parent that we can afford all the extras. Mom was asked to help out with the prom dress, and I became her college adviser.

In the last 18 months, we've visited colleges scattered around the Midwest. I've enjoyed the time spent with my daughter. But in April I decided enough was enough. Ever the engineer, I finalized a comprehensive comparison spreadsheet comparing the key facts from all our visits. I listed four-year graduation rates, dormitory rules, and faculty-to-student ratios. My daughter contributed factors such as average temperature, male-to-female ratios, and number of midterm holidays. The list that we can't seem to find time to talk about is the cost/benefit analysis sheet.

We aren't the only parent/student research team in action. So it's been interesting to monitor how most college recruiters have recognized this trend and have tailored information. They all tout an educational program that will result not only in a well-educated graduate, but one who can make a living in his field of study. It's nice to know that dollars paid in education will have an economic return.

Later this month, you have an opportunity to see a return on education. Our industry is having its second version of what is quickly becoming the graduate school of concrete higher learning. The 2007 Concrete Technology Forum: Focus on High Performance Concrete, will be held May 22–24 in Dallas. Organizers have assembled an educational program beneficial to researchers and practitioners. The event is becoming the meeting place to discuss the latest advances, technical knowledge, continuing research, tools, and solutions for high-performance concrete.

This year's topic intrigues me. I first wrote about high-performance concrete (HPC) in October 1996, when Mary Lou Ralls, then with the Texas DOT, was on our cover. For more than a decade, innovative leaders from the Federal Highway Administration have encouraged HPC by funding several demonstration projects around the country. The Turner Fairbanks Highway Research Center's Web site at www.tfhrc.gov hosts this research.

For the last three years, efforts have been made to encourage the acceptance of performance-based specifications through the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association's P2P initiative. The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, Portland Cement Association, and other groups have been courting bridge designers on HPC through the National Concrete Bridge Council. And even the American Concrete Institute has published its own take on HPC, even though it's only a symposium collection.

The key to this year's forum must be industry-wide agreement on HPC's terminology, measurement, and design criteria. We must present the message from our customer's point of view. Whether precast or cast-in-place, wet-batched, zero-slump, extruded, or gray or colored, the designer/engineer/architect must be assured that an HPC is HPC, no matter from whom he purchases the product.

Our industry needs you in Dallas at this gathering. And just as important, you might want to bring along your best customer.

When you arrive, I may be hard to find. I'll be there at least the first day. But I need to leave early. We're having sort of a technology transfer of our own. My daughter's commencement is that week. I'm interested in learning where she's decided to go to college.

To learn more on the 2007 Concrete Technology Forum, visit www.ConcreteTechnologyForum.org.

Rick Yelton
Editor In Chief
ryelton@hanleywood.com