University of Nebraska Researchers Win NATO Bridge Monitoring Challenge

Daniel Linzell, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate dean for graduate and international programs, explains the technology to invited guests who are the bridge. Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska.

A team of researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA), including College of Engineering faculty, students, and alumni, that developed leading-edge sensors to monitor the health of local rural bridges have seen their work recognized by one of the world’s leading intergovernmental organizations: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or as it is better known, NATO. 

Team Kinnami-University of Nebraska was announced as one of three winners (from more than 90 entries) in the NATO Innovation Challenge-Fall 2022 at a ceremony held in Bucharest, Romania on October 12.  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, including assessing transportation infrastructure systems throughout Europe. 

“Infrastructure is not just a pressing problem here in Nebraska or the United States, it’s worldwide,” says Chungwook Sim, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Our technology can help the people who need to make decisions make them quickly.” 

The Nebraska team is co-led by professors Daniel Linzell and Robin Gandhi. Linzell is the Leslie D. Martin professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the associate dean for graduate and international programs, while Gandhi is a professor in the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Information Science and Technology and director of the School of Interdisciplinary Informatics. The team also includes the following: 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 (DoD) Army Corps of Engineers grant to create Multilevel Analytics and Data Sharing for Operations Planning (MADS-OPP), 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 grater 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 says. “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,” he adds. “It’s gratifying to know the technology that we’re working on together in Nebraska can be integrated into NATO efforts worldwide.” 

Source: Nebraska Today,