High Early Concrete Strength Competition

university of derby high early concrete strength competition


Earlier this month, the first Highest Early Strength Concrete Cube Competition – or HESCCC for short, was held at the University of Derby.

The challenge was – to change a concrete mix design so that it would speed up the curing process and get the highest strength possible after 24-hours.

The teams came up with lots of different ingredients to add to the mix to accelerate the strength – probably the most bizarre was lemon juice.


The Competitors

Six teams of three took part – they came from:

The University of Derby – two teams
Loughborough University – two teams
The University of Nottingham – one team
Nottingham Trent University – one team

Each team had to submit their design and material datasheets a week before the event to give the organisers time to review and approve the mixes.


Mixing Concrete For High Early Strength Testing


Institution of Civil Engineers – Competition Rules

The rules and regulations for the High early concrete strength competition, were written by the ICE East Midlands Graduates and Students Committee – and included the following criteria:

  • The maximum cementitious content allowed to be up to 500 kg/m3
  • Coarse aggregates must be 20 mm of maximum size and Fine aggregates must be 0.0475mm – 4 mm
  • Fineness Modulus: Fine Aggregate = 2.6, Coarse Aggregate = 7.2
  • Specific Gravity: Fine Aggregate = 2.8, Coarse Aggregate = 2.6
  • Cubes will be tested after 24 hours of casting.
  • Participants are required to prepare three (3) cubes which will be subject to normal curing method (water or air).
  • All groups will be monitored by the appointed person from the organisers.
  • Each group is only allowed to mix the concrete once. No trial mixes will be allowed.
  • Only manual compaction using a tamping rod is allowed.
  • Time of 24 hours will be counted from the start of concrete mixing.
  • The Material Safety Data Sheets and COSHH assessment will be required at least seven days in advance of competition (compulsory).
  • All participants to attend compulsory induction before mixing commences.
  • Entries not complying with the rules and regulations of the competition will be disqualified.


High Early Concrete Strength Competition Derby University


The Competition

The inaugural event which was organised by ICE – East Midlands Graduates and Students Committee and hosted by the University of Derby. We were keen to support the event and provided prize money and pizza for the presentation ceremony.

The competition lasted for two days. Day one consisted of the teams mixing the concrete from their designs and filling three cube moulds. These were put into a curing tank and left for 24-hours.

On day two, each team gave a presentation about their mixes and the reasons why they used various additives in their designs. Then came the main event – crushing the cubes.

Cooper Research Technology were part of the competition judging team. They brought a concrete compression machine with them to test the concrete cubes and to get the compressive strength of each. And gave two educational talks to the teams and staff.


De-moulding Concrete Cubes



  • Winner of HESCC at 53.07mpa and an average of 3 cubes of 52.52mpa Team 1 – University of Derby (£150 prize)
  • Best presentation Team 2 – University of Loughborough (£100 prize)
  • The lowest result was 14.42MPA from Team 1 UoL (first-year students)
  • Average cube results across the competition were 32.9 mpa


Concrete Cube Testing Machine


The Winners

The highest early strength concrete cube winners were: Ramez, Joynul and Matt from the University of Derby. The winning cubes achieved an average of 51 MPa- their highest passing 54 MPa. There was also a prize for the best presentation which went to Mateusz, Sam and Rickson from Loughborough University.


High Early Concrete Strength Competition Winners


What the competitors had to say

“We learned over the two days that there are a lot more factors affecting concrete than purely its strength.” – Blessing, 3rd year Civil engineer student UoN


“Always come prepared and ask questions. We didn’t appreciate the importance of early strength and why it’s important in the precast industry.” – Adam NTU


“Attending this event made me feel like I have gained an advantage over people doing civil engineering and did not attend the event.” – Kimberlin, foundation Civil engineer student UoN


A big thank you to all who were involved in this great competition – we hope that it will return next year. We’re hoping to have some data from the concrete mix designs and the cube test results to show you, so watch this space!