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Infrastructure Technology Institute

Students Contribute to Structural Health Monitoring Project, Learn About Instrumentation


Civil Engineering senior Alex Stack marks where he will weld a strain gage to the bridge mockup.

Undergraduate students from the Structural Steel Design course in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have joined the ITI team for a new structural health monitoring (SHM) project. The students have repurposed a small steel bridge built several years ago for a student design competition as a mockup for a bridge in Hurley, Wisconsin, where ITI and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will install a SHM system later
this year.

The ITI engineering staff is working closely with the students, teaching them hands-on instrumentation techniques including strain gage installation and data acquisition methods. Using their knowledge of steel design, the students are installing strain gages at fourteen critical high-stress areas of the mockup bridge.

ITI engineers will enjoy the benefits of access to a fully-instrumented mockup of the Hurley bridge: most importantly, the mockup will provide a platform for a realistic test of all sensors and electronics prior to deployment in the field. This will help ensure a smooth installation during the time allotted, which is strictly limited by the availability of access equipment. Future SHM efforts will also benefit from the availability of a corps of willing students with instrumentation experience.

Once the instrumented mock-up bridge is no longer needed for the Hurley SHM project, it will be deployed at various Northwestern events to showcase ITI’s SHM abilities and to spur interest in civil engineering careers among undergraduates and pre-college students.