Civil and Environmental Engineers at UMass Amherst to Dedicate New Structural Testing Facility on Oct. 27

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst will dedicate the Robert B. Brack Structural Testing Facility on Tillson Way behind the campus police station on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy will lead the ceremony, joined by various leaders from the College of Engineering.

The new test facility will allow researchers from the civil and environmental engineering department (CEE) to test full-size structural elements such as beams and girders. It is also intended to help the department by attracting top-flight students and sponsored research.

The roofed testing center contains a “strong floor” and a bridge-crane system to allow on-site experimental testing of large-scale structural elements. The floor is a 30-by 60-foot highly reinforced concrete slab that has tie-down points every five feet capable of resisting 200,000 pounds of force. The bridge-crane system has a 30-ton capacity, with a 20-foot lifting height.

“This opportunity is extremely exciting for the department,” says Richard Palmer, CEE department head. “The facility will allow our structural engineering faculty to contribute to expanding our knowledge of the sustainability of infrastructure components that will be extremely important in the future and to compete on equal footing with other outstanding universities in the region and across the U.S.”

Robert Brack, a 1960 CEE graduate and the former owner and chairman of the board of the Barker Steel Company, spearheaded the funding for the new testing center by making the lead gift. Other major donors include Edward C. Gray ’73, Ernest Theodore Selig and Rae N. Selig, and the J. F. White Contracting Company. So far, some 64 individuals and companies have supported the effort.

“The addition of the Structural Testing Facility offers new and unique opportunities to partner with state and federal agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to do research/testing projects and provides undergraduate and graduate students the chance to gain invaluable experience,” says Brack. This will be important in addressing issues stemming from deteriorating highway and bridge infrastructure.

Sergio Breña, a CEE professor, says, “The Structural Testing Facility will allow us to test actual components of bridges that are being replaced and help answer this question to better inform those in charge of managing the bridge infrastructure in our region.”

Contact: Richard Palmer, 413/545-2508,

                Paula Sakey, 413/545.6396,