This grant supported coursework and laboratory development and expanded research capacity, promoting (a) innovative learning activities that expose students to cutting-edge methods of bridge structural health and behavior monitoring and (b) research by our growing group of graduate students using developing technologies (specifically, shake tables and iPods with on-board accelerometers). As transportation infrastructure reaches and exceeds its design life, engineering efforts are turning to evaluation, rehabilitation and repair. Accurately assessing structures to determine their future performance and remaining life is becoming a primary job function for many civil engineers.
As part of this project, graduate students worked with the PI to develop course modules that employed iPods in the laboratory and classroom to introduce concepts of vibrations, dynamic evaluation methods, structural health monitoring, and damage detection. Learning gains as a result of the module were assessed with both direct and indirect methods. While learning gains appeared stronger for students who participated in the hands-on component of the laboratory, due to the small class size there were no statistically significant differences between using iPods in a hands-on laboratory versus a purely computational laboratory. However, students indicated that iPods and hands-on laboratories were their preferred experience.
The team also investigated laboratory and field applications, as well as effectiveness, of iPods to study structural dynamics and structural health monitoring methods, specifically for area bridges and other transportation structures. Sensor networks and mobile device-based accelerometers are beginning to be recognized as a valid means for conducting structural evaluations. The equipment purchased with this grant allowed for a new laboratory to be developed at Oregon Tech to support multiple undergraduate and graduate elective courses including Bridge Rating, Bridge Design, Transportation Structures, and Structural Dynamics. The Structural Health and Kinetic Evaluation (SHAKE) Laboratory and the associated equipment will support education and research efforts at Oregon Tech well into the future.