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Bridge Bot Honored for Innovation

Thursday, June 19, 2014

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U.S. engineers are toasting an innovative robotic bridge inspection tool for its impact on the future of assessing structural health.

The Robotics Assisted Bridge Inspection Tool (RABIT) is a collaboration between the Federal Highway Administration and Rutgers University's Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT).

The automated bridge deck assessment tool recently received the prestigious 2014 Charles Pankow Award for Innovation from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Rutgers University

The Robotics Assisted Bridge Inspection Tool (RABIT), a collaboration of FHWA and Rutgers University, received ASCE's 2014 Charles Pankow Award for Innovation.

The annual award celebrates collaboration in innovative design, materials, or construction-related research and development transferred into practice in a sustainable manner.

Winners have to show that the technology will have an impact on the construction industry by reducing costs, waste, delivery times, worker injuries, and/or pollution, as well as increase safety and durability.

5 Years, 1,000 Bridges

The RABIT is now collecting and analyzing data on a representative sample of bridges throughout six states—Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia—and Washington, D.C. to "fine tune" its capabilities.

The goal of the project is to use the robot on 1,000 bridges nationwide over the next five years. Officials will collect and analyze data on how the structures perform under different environmental and traffic conditions. They also will evaluate the effectiveness of different methods of maintenance and rehabilitation.

The project team is led by Nenand Gucunski, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rutgers.

"The Center's expertise in infrastructure conditional monitoring, Gucunski's experience in nondestructive evaluation technologies and with testing, and additions from multiple School of Engineering faculty and students turned an innovative idea into a breakthrough bridge monitoring technology," Rutgers said in an award announcement.

Drew Noel /

"It's so important that we're able to solve problems today, not five years from today. What you have done here is really, really amazing," FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez said at the robot's first public demonstration.

The team also includes Ali Maher, director of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation; Basily Basily, industrial engineering assistant research professor; Hung La, post-doctoral associate; and university researchers Ronny Lim and Hooman Parvardeh.

Gucunski and his team were honored March 20 at ASCE's Outstanding Projects and Leaders Gala.

Revolutionary Data Collection

The RABIT automates data collection while using several nondestructive evaluation technologies, including ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity and acoustic arrays for impact echo and surface wave testing.

According to Rutgers, one of the most revolutionary aspects of the RABIT is its enhanced data interpretation and visualization capabilities.

By combining various data sets, the robot can create an "almost instantaneous three-dimensional snapshot of bridge deck condition that is easy to interpret." the university reports

"By using innovative technology, we can better identify needed bridge repairs, which is all part of the president's vision for improved transportation infrastructure," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said when the RABIT was launched in 2013.

Rutgers University

The robot aims to visit 1,000 bridges over the next five years.

FHWA plans to use the data to develop a better understanding of concrete bridge deck deterioration to enable more realistic life cycle cost models.

First Public Demo

At a the RABIT's first public demo earlier this year on the Route 15 bridge over Route 66 in Virginia, FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez said, "This is what we've been talking about at U.S. DOT and FHWA—it's about innovation and bringing solutions to the real world.

"It's so important that we're able to solve problems today, not five years from today. What you have done here is really, really amazing."

The robot is a product of the Long-Term Bridge Performance Program, a FHWA research initiative to collect and analyze data on a representative sample of  bridges around the country to understand how they react under certain conditions.

Launched in 2008, the bridge performance project is led by Rutgers' CAIT and is envisioned as a 20-year comprehensive examination of the nation’s “workhorse” highway bridges.


Tagged categories: American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE); Awards and honors; Bridges; Concrete; Department of Transportation (DOT); Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Infrastructure; Inspection; Research

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