Navigating Constant Change
Being on an ASTM committee is a lot like mountain biking. Just ask Rich Szecsy, who ought to know. An ASTM member since 1998, Szecsy (pronounced say-chee) has been a competitive mountain biker for even longer, participating in at least one race annually for the last 20 years.
A lifelong interest in mountain biking led Szecsy and two friends to form Big Pig Racing more than 10 years ago. Although Szecsy says that the team started out "as kind of a joke," the team now includes 55 riders from six states who collectively ride and race.
According to Szecsy, Big Pig's motto, "Commit to the ride," is one that team members attempt to apply both to their racing activities and to life in general. In addition to racing, the team does what it can to support local trail advocacy, mountain bike/cycling community initiatives and fellow team members.
Szecsy specializes in endurance races, which can be up to 24 hours long. He has been known to wrap up such a marathon race and then head directly to ASTM meetings.
It is at such meetings where Szecsy sees most clearly the work that ASTM volunteers accomplish. He says that he has met an interesting mix of people through his ASTM work and appreciates how ASTM committees employ the "Socratic method" of reaching consensus to produce technical standards.
Szecsy, currently secretary and member of ASTM International Committee C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates, has been involved in the development and upkeep of several standards, including C1602/C1602M, Specification for Mixing Water Used in the Production of Hydraulic Cement Concrete, and C1603, Test Method for Measurement of Solids in Water.
Both C1602 and C1603 were developed by C09.40 on Ready-Mixed Concrete, which Szecsy has been involved with since the beginning of his ASTM activities.
Szecsy has a Ph.D. in civil engineering and an M.A. in business administration. Since November 2010, he has been president of the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association. According to its website, TACA "speaks for all forms of aggregate, concrete, cement, admixtures, fly ash and construction material producers and allied industries in a united effort."
Szecsy hopes that ASTM will continue its efforts to attract young people, including students, since it is important that institutional knowledge is passed along to the next generation of standards developers. In standards development work, as in mountain biking, Szecsy understands the importance of "committing to the ride."
In fact, from Szecsy's perspective, it is easy to compare ASTM subcommittee work with his experience as a Big Pig team member.
"Mountain biking is about rapidly changing terrain and conditions, and having the equipment and preparation to handle those changes," says Szecsy. "ASTM is a lot like mountain biking. The industry changes at a field level rapidly and with varied conditions across the country and the globe. As an organization we have to have the equipment and horsepower to adapt our standards to those changes whether they come from advancements in technology, increase in regulatory control or marketplace conditions."
In the end, Szecsy feels that the work of ASTM members comes down to the quality of the standards.
"It's about whether the technical ideas have validity to do the work for the good of the industry."