Nebraska-led team wins NATO bridge monitoring challenge

by Karl Vogel | Engineering

Daniel Linzell
Daniel Linzell, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate dean for graduate and international programs, explains the technology to invited guests who are on the bridge.
November 3, 2022

Lincoln, Neb. —Work done using sensors to monitor the health of rural bridges in Nebraska could soon result in a team of University of Nebraska researchers, including College of Engineering faculty, students and alumni, being asked to apply leading-edge technology tools to improve the assessment of transportation infrastructure systems throughout Europe.

On Oct. 12 in Bucharest, Romania, Team Kinnami-University of Nebraska was announced as one of three winners in the NATO Innovation Challenge-Fall 2022 from more than 90 entries. The competition was hosted by NATO Allied Command Transformation’s Innovation Hub, in partnership with the NATO Communication and Information Agency and the Romanian Ministry of Defense.

Given the increased demands placed on roadways, bridges and other built environment systems, the award shows that the Nebraska team’s smart data technology can have universal and international applications, said Chungwook Sim, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“Infrastructure is not just a pressing problem here in Nebraska or the United States, it’s worldwide. Our technology can help the people who need to make decisions make them quickly,” Sim said.

The Nebraska team is co-led by Daniel Linzell, Leslie D. Martin professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the associate dean for graduate and international programs in the College of Engineering; and Robin Gandhi, professor in the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Information Science and Technology and director of the School of Interdisciplinary Informatics. The team includes Nebraska Engineering researchers Carrick Detweiler, professor in the School of Computing, and Jinying Zhu, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; UNO researchers Deepak Khazanchi, professor of information systems and quantitative analysis, and Brian Ricks, assistant professor of computer science; and Yashar Eftekhar Azam, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire.

In collaboration with Kinnami Software Corp., the Nebraska team is working on a $5 million Department of Defense Army Corps of Engineers grant to create MADS-OPP (Multilevel Analytics and Data Sharing for Operations Planning), a system for monitoring bridge health that will also analyze the data and suggest next steps for maintenance.

Using edge computing, a variety of sensors and computer vision data from drones and other sources, MADS-OPP will provide mission-critical data for use by the DoD as well as public and private stakeholders to better prioritize budgets, protect bridges, and most importantly, ensure the safety of those who travel on them.

Linzell and Sim both noted the $8,500 first prize was a great honor, but the greater reward was having the value of the Nebraska research recognized for its universal applications.

“I think there’s more to what we as engineers and researchers do than publishing papers and earning citations,” Linzell said. “It’s about finding ways to make the world we live in safer.

“It’s of immense value having people from other parts of the world who manage engineers and scientists who do this research say they appreciate and value our work, and we are well positioned to receive funding for further expansion and improvement of the work we’ve already done,” said Linzell. “It’s gratifying to know the technology that we’re working on together in Nebraska can be integrated into NATO efforts worldwide.”

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