NCAT Adapts For Successful Hybrid Conference

Conference attendees visit NCAT’s pavement preservation research on Lee County Road 159.

NCAT hosted its first-ever hybrid Test Track Conference June 22-24, 2021, at the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center in Auburn, Alabama. A combination of 367 virtual and in-person guests attended to learn about cost-effective and performance-improving innovations in the design, construction, preservation and maintenance of asphalt pavements.

Held at the conclusion of each three-year phase of research, the conference is an opportunity for researchers at NCAT – partnering with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s MnROAD facility – to present the latest research findings from accelerated pavement testing. The seventh research cycle began in 2018 and was primarily focused on pavement preservation, balanced mix design, cracking tests and rejuvenator experiments.

Larry Rilett, director of the Auburn University Transportation Research Institute (AUTRI), was this year’s opening speaker. The newly established institute is hosted and supported within the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and provides a unified presence and strategic direction for promoting Auburn’s world-renowned transportation research.

Tuesday and Wednesday’s presentations detailed findings from researchers at NCAT and MnROAD. Attendees visited the Test Track on Tuesday to view numerous test sections, high friction surfaces, track instrumentation, profiling equipment and test methods.

David Timm, Brasfield & Gorrie Professor of Civil Engineering, explains how strain gauges are used to monitor structural sections on the track.

Pavement preservation was Wednesday’s central focus, where a walking tour of Lee Road 159 provided an opportunity to evaluate the life extending and condition improving benefits of various techniques. Virtual tours from both locations were shown for online attendees and are now available on the NCAT YouTube channel. Other in-person events included meals, an evening reception, and a Q&A format dinner with Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl delivers candid answers to questions from the audience. 

Representatives from sponsoring agencies offered testimonials about how implementing test track research has helped their states build safer, longer lasting asphalt pavements, while private industry sponsors touted the benefits of independent verification of product claims and efficacy from a trusted industry source. “NCAT’s success is our success,” said Everett Crews, director of R&D pavement technologies at Ingevity. “This 16-year partnership has improved our ability to build field experiments that accurately reflect and confirm performance of both new and traditional asphalt paving technologies. When NCAT proves that something works, we can take that around the world.”

Former NCAT students Alfredo Castro (left) and Clint Van Winkle (right) meet up in the exhibit hall.

The conference concluded on Thursday with remarks from NCAT Assistant Director Buzz Powell regarding upcoming reconstruction of the track for the next phase of testing, while NCAT Director Randy West and MnROAD Operations Engineer Ben Worel discussed future research opportunities.

NCAT would like to thank the Test Track sponsors, conference attendees, exhibitors and reception sponsors, whose dedication was essential to the success of this event. A complete report detailing the findings of NCAT’s seventh research cycle is available online at