Federal Money for Transpo Robot

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Robot Tests Bridges for Structural Deficiences (Photo: Rutgers University/Drew Noel Photography, 2011. All rights reserved.)

Rutgers University has scored a $3.5-million dollar grant from the US Department of Transportation.  The school’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) was one of 22 University Transportation Centers to get the federal grants this year, down from 60 institutions that received grants last year.

CAIT’s Associate Director of Marketing and Communications, Allison Thomas, said the grant will help defray administration costs that support a number of programs, including one that focuses on bridge and road infrastructure maintenance and repair.

“With things falling apart all over the place, maintenance and repair are key, and the New York metro area is our lab,” said Thomas.  The Rutgers team designed a robot to help it diagnose problems in bridges before they are visible to the naked eye.

Externally, the robot is pretty mundane.  “It looks like a metal box, about the size of a large picnic cooler,” explained Thomas.  The robot uses a number of techniques to test a bridge’s steel lattice core.  One deploys sound waves to ferret out micro cracks, air pockets and splits.  The grant will also help fund a smart phone app that excavators can use to create an underground map of wires, on the spot, before they dig.

CAIT’s consortium of partners will share in the grant. They include Columbia University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, University of Delaware, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Virginia, Utah State University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.