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At international expo, Virginia Tech touts intelligent infrastructure

April 20, 2016

Pablo Tarazaga and students in lab

Pablo Tarazaga and students set up sensors in lab
Pablo Tarazaga, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, and Mico Woolard, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering from Virginia Beach, set up sensors in the Smart Infrastructure Laboratory in Goodwin Hall.

Virginia Tech has crystallized its blueprint to represent the highest levels of research and innovation at the world’s largest trade show for industrial technology, scheduled to take place in Germany in late April. The focus is on intelligent infrastructure, which allows for seamless computer control of components such as energy use, movement of people in a building, and the networking of devices.

Virginia Tech is one of the key institutions in the U.S. delegation going to the show called Hannover Messe, expected to attract attendees from more than 70 countries. Delegation organizers point to Virginia Tech because of its plans to showcase two high-profile areas:

  • The Smart Infrastructure Laboratory, which includes smart-building technology that can guide occupants to safety during disasters, among many other functions
  • The Structural Systems and Lifecycle Reliability team, which works at the intersection of engineering materials and systems to advance structural safety, resiliency, and durability.

“This is an outstanding opportunity to demonstrate leading-edge research on the world stage of Hannover Messe,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “Our work toward the development of intelligent infrastructure and human-centered communities has the potential to address some of the fundamental urban challenges the world will face in the coming years.”

The university will also spotlight the work of the Language and Culture Institute and Continuing and Professional Education. The institute recruits international students on behalf of the university, provides language-related programs for academic and professional development, and develops partnerships that promote international development and capacity building. Continuing and Professional Education works with the university’s teaching and research faculty, academic, government, and business leaders, as well as community partners to design and deliver customized educational programs and advanced workforce training.

Virginia Tech – which is the top academic research center in Virginia in National Science Foundation-reported research expenditures – announced plans in February to participate in Hannover Messe for the first time.

Two researchers setting up cameras
Cristopher D. Moen, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Abraham Lama Salomon, a Ph.D. candidate in civil engineering and an M.S. student in computer engineering, set up cameras at the Thomas M. Murray Structures Laboratory.

Some background about the university's premier exhibits:

Smart Infrastructure Laboratory

Virginia Tech's Goodwin Hall, which opened less than two years ago, is known as the world's most-instrumented building for measurement of vibrations. Measuring motion and vibration inside and outside the walls, 212 accelerometers can detect even the slightest movement. The sensors feed data into data acquisition boxes via 65,000 feet of cable interconnecting the entire system. Data can be used to save energy costs, guide maintenance crews, or deploy first responders in an emergency.

Virginia Tech researcher Pablo Tarazaga, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, directs the Smart Infrastructure Laboratory and is scheduled to attend the trade show along with Mico Woolard, of Virginia Beach, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering.

Structural Systems and Lifecycle Reliability

This team maintains a purpose-built noncontact measurement and visualization system capable of generating 3-D representations of any object or environment over time. 

These models can be used to identify gradual changes — such as gusset plate buckling in a bridge — or to find and measure features, like cracks in a building after an earthquake. This system has been successfully implemented at the Thomas M. Murray Structures Laboratory  to measure deformations in a steel plate wall and in the field to identify cracks in a concrete bridge over the James River. 

Virginia Tech researcher and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Cristopher D. Moen leads the team. Abraham Lama Salomon, a Ph.D. candidate in civil engineering and a master's student in computer engineering, is scheduled to be on hand at the trade show to introduce and discuss their work.

At Hannover Messe, the university will also highlight its partnership with the Technische Universität Darmstadt (TUD), which has attracted more than $5 million in external funding for joint programs, including a dual bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. In this program, U.S. students complete their senior year at TUD and German students finish at Virginia Tech, earning degrees from both universities simultaneously.

Hannover Messe runs from April 25 through 29. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to speak at the trade show's opening before touring the exhibits. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is also expected to attend and tour Virginia Tech’s booth.

Virginia Tech's participation is being sponsored by the Language and Culture Institute and organized by the institute and CPE – both part of Outreach and International Affairs. The Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation contributed. 

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