Jimmy Hou (1T9)

Jimmy Hou and a colleague casting concrete into cylinders for testing.

Jimmy Hou and Mishael Nuh (EngSci 1T9) casting concrete into cylinders for testing.

I spent the summer of my first year working as a research assistant in the lab group of Professors Evan Bentz and Michael Collins in the Structural Testing Facility at the University of Toronto. From May to August 2016, I was involved in the instrumentation, casting, and testing of two reinforced concrete shells and a reinforced concrete beam.

The two reinforced concrete shell specimens were tested under three-dimensional loading and shear as part of a series of tests by Ph.D. student Giorgio Proestos. A highlight of the process was testing the specimens and loading them to failure. Test day is always exhilarating, and seeing, in real life, how these concrete structures failed (i.e. exploded!) under immense amounts of stress was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I also worked individually on a modelling project, building on my knowledge of out-of-plane loading and the concept of finite element analysis. I validated the accuracy of a program that predicts the load deformations and failure of reinforced concrete shells using Proestos’ test results, and presented my findings at the Undergraduate Engineering Research Day showcase.


Jimmy with the seven metre long reinforced concrete beam.

Later in the summer, I helped to construct the formwork and reinforcement cage for a massive seven-metre long concrete beam to be tested by Master’s student Allan Kuan (EngSci 1T4 + PEY). This was an incredible learning experience. I was trained to use various machines in the testing facility, from table saws and band saws to cylinder testers and rebar benders, in order to build the specimen from the bottom up. The entire process was very hands-on, and gave me a chance to really make an impact as well get a first-hand glimpse at the work of a civil engineering graduate student. A huge thank you to the Division of Engineering Science, my lab supervisors, and Professors Bentz and Collins for this memorable opportunity!