Civil Engineering Students Had a Blast at Cedar Mountain Quarry

Burak Tanyu's, assistant professor, Engineering Geology class tours the Cedar Mountain Stone Quarry. Photo by Evan Cantwell/George Mason University.

Burak Tanyu’s Engineering Geology class tours the Cedar Mountain Stone Quarry. Photo by Evan Cantwell/George Mason University.

When college students say they had a blast, they typically don’t mean watching 20,000 lbs. of explosive power blast 40,000 tons of rock, but that’s how senior civil engineering student Rachael Wright described her field trip to Cedar Mountain Quarry.

Wright was one of 40 students from assistant professor Burak Tanyu’s geotechnical engineering class who donned bright orange hard hats on a crisp fall morning and toured the Cedar Mountain quarry, a 1,500-acre quarry just south of Culpeper in the Shenandoah Mountain foothills.

“It was thrilling to see the explosion,” said Wright. “I had seen a quarry explosion on video before, so I wasn’t expecting it to be so exciting. But seeing a video is nothing like being there, watching rocks fly forward, seeing dust billow out from the rubble, and feeling the force of the explosion through the air before hearing it. It was surreal.”

Tanyu designed the field trip to teach students about geological formations and what it takes to make the rock aggregate that forms the basis of many Virginia roads. His class combines two fields of study, geotechnical engineering and geology, that are often separate.

“The class gives prospective geotechnical and civil engineers a background and understanding of the earth’s history and processes so they can understand the implications of how these relate to engineering problems such as earthquakes and landslides as well as making educated assessments for suitable ground conditions and selecting appropriate soils and rocks for construction.”

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