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Grant awarded - UVM, UMaine, VTC win $4 Million NSF grant

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

UVM, UMaine, VTC win $4 Million NSF grant to create next gen sensor networks for infrastructure monitoring


The focus of this research infrastructure project is Advanced Wireless Integrated Systems for Infrastructure (AWISI) using Internet of things (IOT) and microrobots. Engineered infrastructure, i.e., buildings, dams, bridges, underground piping, etc. is often viewed as static, but actually is quite dynamic. Changes occur at time scales ranging from milliseconds to decades. Construction, maintenance, disaster resilience, emergency response and adaptive control in response weather events and population growth are examples that require dynamic and adaptive management approaches. Wireless methods eliminate much of the capital cost of placing wires for communication, sensing and control, and easily adapt as situations change. This project will engage in fundamental research and research infrastructure development by focusing on three main areas: 1. Advanced wireless research enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), IOT and micro-robotics; 2. Infrastructure use cases covering coastal structures, underground infrastructure, highway structures, rapid prototype evaluation of new structures, and geotechnical formations. The goal is to develop the use cases into Engineering Infrastructure Testbeds (EITs) that support research and implementation of advanced wireless methods; and 3. Workforce development and outreach that integrates stakeholders, students at K-12 up through postdoc levels, and junior faculty in all aspects of the research efforts. The project spans two different RII-eligible EPSCoR jurisdictions, Vermont and Maine, and builds on expertise at three participating institutions -- University of Vermont, University of Maine, and Vermont Technical college. The project duration is four years with pilot projects in areas that address a rapidly changing technical landscape and promote the recruitment of diverse and early career faculty. It is anticipated that six junior faculty, one postdoc, 16 graduate students, 7 undergraduates, and perhaps over 100 K-12 students with a substantial fraction drawn from underrepresented populations will participate in this project. There is potential for large economic growth in the wireless, microfabrication and engineered infrastructure industries.

This research effort takes advantage of recent and ongoing rapid technology advancements in wireless communication for telemetry, sensing, IOT devices with micro-robotic implementations, increasingly sophisticated AI methods, and an integrated society highly dependent on engineered infrastructure that it demands to be safe, ubiquitous, reliable, and environmentally friendly. Wireless technologies to be researched include use of AI to control wireless sensor networks and how to integrate them into the emerging 5G/6G Open-Radio Access Network framework; integration of wireless with IOT and microrobot devices to provide practical wide area coverage of engineered infrastructure, including inaccessible regions; and specialized techniques for communicating with underground and other inaccessible infrastructure. Convergence of progress in these multiple domains, including economic and social aspects, will enable information flow with the potential to transform the construction, maintenance, and use of engineered infrastructure. These developments will be implemented and evaluated in a set of EITs for coastal structures, underground infrastructure, highway structures, rapid assessment of prototype structures, and large geotechnical formations.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.



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