NPCAF scholarship recipient’s dedication and drive play a significant role in the pursuit of a master’s degree in civil engineering.
By Mason Nichols
Growing up, NPCA Foundation scholarship recipient David Amorim spent plenty of time on construction sites. As the son of a general contractor, the gigantic machinery fascinated him. From excavators to cranes, Amorim was hooked, but his parents weren’t so sure about their son’s budding interest.
“My parents were always like, ‘No, you have to do better. You can’t become a construction worker,’” Amorim said.
What did Amorim do to allay his parents’ fears? Naturally, he allowed his fascination to grow even stronger. When he was 10, Amorim enrolled in a program called Career Trek at his school. Over the course of roughly a year, participating students boarded a school bus each Saturday and visited a local university to learn about a wide variety of professions. One particular lesson on civil engineering stood out to him and planted the seed for what would ultimately grow into his career path.
Today, Amorim is a graduate student in civil engineering at the University of Manitoba where he is researching precast concrete bridge deck panels and ultra high performance concrete joints. Thanks to NPCAF support, he has been able to focus nearly all of his efforts on working in the lab.
“I haven’t had to work part-time through the entirety of my master’s program,” Amorim said. “Every dollar I’ve been able to get from scholarships here and there has definitely helped allow me to stay focused on my schooling.”
This is important to Amorim. The large-scale, experimental nature of his research means plenty of time working in the lab, where he has already built two sizeable bridge decks. Despite sticking with a career in construction, he has followed one part of his parents’ advice – consistently pushing to do better.
Amorim participated in the school’s co-op program as an undergrad, allowing him to gain industry experience over the course of three summers. Working for Dillon Consulting in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Amorim contributed to the expansion of a major floodway, the modification of a city tunnel and the design of several precast bridge structures throughout the province. He now works at the company part-time.
In the final year of his undergraduate studies, Amorim expanded his growing knowledge of precast further by participating in the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s Big Beam Contest. Amorim and his team members partnered with Lafarge to fabricate an approximately 20-foot-long prestressed beam, which was tested for predictable structural behavior. Through the contest, Amorim met Lafarge’s Ifan Lim, who would eventually become Amorim’s sponsor for the NPCAF scholarship.
But obtaining industry experience and becoming more accustomed to working with precast concrete wasn’t enough. After attending several local American Concrete Institute presentations, Amorim learned about the institute’s graduate fellowship and decided to apply. He became a finalist and eventually flew to ACI’s annual convention for an interview. In the end, he was not awarded the fellowship.
Seeking an opportunity to win the next year, Amorim did more digging and discovered other students had established local ACI chapters at their schools. Amorim found the activities students participated in while joining university chapters to be intriguing, so he put in the work to establish one at his own school. Today, the University of Manitoba ACI chapter has more than 70 members.
“It’s been pretty successful so far,” Amorim said. “We have monthly dinner presentations on a variety of topics and last year we did a tour of a precasting plant. We’ve had a lot of support from the industry and were able to fundraise over $10,000 to do all of these activities.”
Even with all of the success he has experienced, Amorim continues looking ahead. After earning his master’s, he hopes to spend some time working in the industry before potentially returning to school to pursue a Ph.D.
“I’m really interested in long-span, cable-type structures,” Amorim said. “I’d like to be a design engineer on major, iconic bridge structures.”
If doing better was the goal, Amorim has already proven he is more than capable of exceeding expectations. With the support of the NPCAF and a seemingly endless drive to advance, Amorim is primed for success no matter what the future may hold.
Mason Nichols is the managing editor of Precast Solutions magazine and is NPCA’s external communication and marketing manager.