On November 17, 2017, the INSPIRE University Transportation Center (INSPIRE UTC) hosted a transportation-related robotics workshop on the Missouri S&T campus in Rolla, Missouri. The workshop, titled “Rescue the Bridge with Robotics” was part of the 2017 Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Conference.
The EYH conference is an annual conference for 7th and 8th grade girls. It is designed to help participants better understand some of the many career choices they can explore in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas. “EYH is a unique opportunity for Missouri S&T to make young girls aware of the new opportunities in S.T.E.M. and how they can make a positive impact on solving tomorrow’s world challenges.”, says Dr. Anthony R. Petroy, Vice Provost for Global Learning at Missouri S&T.
The INSPIRE UTC workshop introduced 30 young female students to the transportation industry in a memorable and fun way. Participants learned that traditional methods used to inspect and maintain bridges are time consuming and costly or even dangerous in some cases. They learned how to use advanced technology to perform inspections and make the process safer and more efficient.
The workshop was presented by Dr. Ruwen Qin, Associate Professor, Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, Dr. Grace Yan, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, Hongya Qu, PhD Student, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, and Amy Gillman, Program Coordinator, INSPIRE University Transportation Center.
On October 14, 2017, Dr. Genda Chen, Director of the INSPIRE University Transportation Center (INSPIRE UTC), presented information to the FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics team and the FLL Junior robotics team at the Kaleidoscope Discovery Center in Rolla, Missouri. The presentation was part of the KDC’s Saturday seminar series. Approximately 30 students ranging in age from 6-14 and their parents attended.
The KDC’s mission is to provide opportunities that advance the understanding and appreciation of: engineering, science, technology, the environment, arts and math (ESTEAM); through hand’s on learning experiences, which inspire everyone to imagine, explore and create a better world.
Dr. Chen’s presentation introduced to the FLL teams the challenges associated with current bridge inspection methods, and the importance of improving these methods through the use of the advanced technologies currently being developed by the INSPIRE UTC, such as non-contact sensing, unmanned aerial vehicles and climbing robots used for bridge inspection and maintenance.
On September 1, the INSPIRE University Transportation Center (UTC) held a kickoff meeting with representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R). Other attendees included INSPIRE UTC associate directors from Missouri S&T, City College of New York, Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Nevada-Reno, external advisory committee members and Missouri S&T leadership and grant management support staff.
Following the business meeting, the INSPIRE UTC provided a demonstration of the unmanned aerial vehicles that will be used for robotic bridge inspection, led by the Missouri S&T MinerFly research support team. Participants toured the new INSPIRE UTC office and Applied Microwave Nondestructive Testing Laboratory in the Engineering Research Laboratory, and the System and Process Assessment Research, High-bay Structural Engineering Research, and MinerFly Laboratories in Butler-Carlton Civil Engineering Hall.
Following the tour, Missouri S&T held a luncheon to celebrate the launch of the new center. Guests included University of Missouri System President Dr. Mun Choi; Missouri S&T Interim Chancellor Dr. Chris Maples; Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna; Greg Smith, vice chair of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission; state Senator Dan Brown, whose district includes Rolla; and University of Missouri Curator David Steelman. Each spoke on the importance of the UTC mission and INSPIRE’s potential impact on improving the maintenance and preservation of Missouri’s transportation infrastructure.
On July 18, 2017, the INSPIRE University Transportation Center (UTC) held a one-day MoDOT Transportation Camp on the Missouri S&T campus as part of MoDOT’s annual 6-day Youth Transportation Conference. Each summer MoDOT selects 30 students from across the state to participate in the camp exposing them to numerous career opportunities in the field of transportation.
Attendees spent a full day visiting S&T and explored a variety of topics related to transportation. The INSPIRE UTC showcased exciting research related to driver’s behavior simulation, sensor applications in bridge condition assessment, the use of robotics in bridge maintenance, and potential effect of tornadoes on transportation structures. Following a welcome address by the center’s associate director, Dr. Suzanna Long, students attended a series of activities coordinated by Dr. Ruwen Qin and organized by the INSPIRE faculty members: Drs. Genda Chen, Dincer Konur, Grace Yan, and Zhaozheng Yin. Students toured S&T’s Virtual Reality (VR) Laboratory, Wind Hazard Mitigation (WHAM) Laboratory, and the System and Process Assessment Research (SPAR) Laboratory. Students also participated in hands-on activities in the VR, WHAM, and SPAR Labs, and attended a demonstration presentation in the CVBI Lab.