Tag Archives: public services

Digital Imaging Correlation Helping Engineers Examine Bridge Failure in “Exquisite Detail”

It will be five years on the first of August since the Interstate 35-W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota fatally failed leaving 13 dead and dozens injured. If any cloud truly has a silver lining, the sterling behind this tragedy may be the momentum it has provided in helping to assure that hundreds of bridges across the U.S. are safe.

An investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), determined that gusset plates were the “immediate culprit” behind the 2007 collapse in Minneapolis, according to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) engineer Justin Ocel. Together with the FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), engineer Mark Iadicola of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is therefore working to understand and document the failure of gusset plates with the help of digital image correlation.

The NIST digital image correlation method is a good complement to the FHWA measurement methods. Their techniques—strain gages and photoelasticity—are very good for the normal range of stress in which the plate will stretch and spring right back to its original shape. Our method can tell you a little about that, but it really shines in showing you what happens past that point, when the plate starts permanently deforming and finally rips apart.”

— Mark Iadicola, NIST

The FHWA and AASHTO are now working together to incorporate what they’ve learned into the AASHTO Bridge Design Specification and the Manual for Bridge Evaluation, which are used in bridge design and rating across the U.S.

The January 11 NIST press release is at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-01/nios-seu011112.php

Also, check out the NIST video at http://youtu.be/sNUzhUptCuk

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.


First Round of Health Care Innovation Awards Announced

The first organizations to receive Health Care Innovation awards were announced on May 8. The awards are made possible by the Affordable Care Act and will support 26 innovative projects across the U.S.

The criteria for selection included projects’ ability to save money, deliver high quality medical care, and enhance the health care workforce.

View all the preliminary award recipients as a list or as an interactive database.

We can’t wait to support innovative projects that will save money and make our health care system stronger. It’s yet another way we are supporting local communities now in their efforts to provide better care and lower cost.”

— Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Health and Human Services (HHS)

Over the next 3 years, the combined savings from the preliminary awardees announced yesterday are expected to reduce health spending by $254 million. The next round of preliminary award recipients is slated for announcement in early June.

How is technology changing your life for the better?

Learn more at http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2012pres/05/20120508a.html

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

Health Care Innovation Challenge: Update

Inundated by Applications, HHS Delays Announcing Winners

After receiving approximately three thousand applications, the CMS Innovation Center, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has stated it will delay announcing the winners for the first round of the Health Care Innovation Challenge funding until the unexpectedly large number of applications it received can be reviewed and processed.

“As we continue to process and review these proposals, we recognize that a diligent and thorough process means that final determinations of awards will not be possible by March 30, 2012, as stated in the Funding Opportunity Announcement. Therefore, the anticipated award date for this opportunity will be delayed by several weeks.”

— CMS Web Update, March 26, 2012

The update notes that the applications that were received represent the efforts of “tens of thousands of clinicians, information technology entrepreneurs, medical suppliers, health centers, hospitals, community-based organizations and individual citizens from every corner of the nation.”

The awards for the Challenge are for $1 million to $30 million over a period of 3 years. HHS will monitor projects that receive awards to ensure measurable quality improvements and savings are achieved.

Read the full announcement and update about the Health Care Innovation Challenge at http://www.innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/Innovation-Challenge/index.html

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

Using Smartphones to Track Diseases Trims Time, Costs, Mistakes

stacks-o-paperWorking with the Kenya Ministry of Health, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have demonstrated the potential for smartphone-based questionnaires to replace paper-based ones for gathering information about diseases.

The researchers found that, after initial setup, using smartphones was less costly than paper-based methods, and the data collected using smartphones had fewer errors.

Collecting data using smartphones has improved the quality of our data and given us a faster turnaround time to work with it. It also helped us save on the use of paper and other limited resources.”

— Henry Njuguna, M.D., sentinel surveillance coordinator, CDC Kenya

While some of the survey questions were mandatory, on 5 percent of the paper questionnaires some were omitted; however, only 3 percent of the smartphone surveys were incomplete. Duplicate patient ID numbers appeared in 7 paper-based questionnaires but in none of the smartphone-based surveys.

In addition, unlike the paper-based data, the smartphone data was uploaded to a database within hours rather than weeks.

Explore further at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-03/asfm-sma030912.php

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

Robot Roundup

What if robots could run the way cheetahs do? Or take to the sky like a butterfly? Or clean out your fridge? For insights into those questions and more, here’s a quick summary of some of the most interesting robot-related research announced this week:

Floats like a butterfly…

By learning how butterflies get around with so much nimbleness and grace, Johns Hopkins engineers hope to help small airborne robots, commonly called micro aerial vehicles or MAVs, to imitate these types of movement and thereby prepare the way for a new generation of tiny flying machines.

The research is using three high-speed video cameras capable of recording 3,000 one-megapixel images per second to scrutinize painted lady butterfly flight dynamics. It may lead to the development of technology that will aid in supporting safer reconnaissance, search-and-rescue, and environmental monitoring missions.

…MAVs must be able to fly successfully through complex urban environments, where there can be tight spaces and turbulent gusts of wind. Flying insects are capable of performing a dazzling variety of flight maneuvers. In designing MAVs, we can learn a lot from flying insects.”

— Tiras Lin, undergraduate, Whiting School of Engineering

Run, robot! Run!

Working with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Delaware assistant professor Ioannis Poulakakis is working to develop “a family of systematic control strategies that work together with the robot’s natural dynamics to generate fast, reliable and efficient running motions.”

Poulakakis hopes his efforts might help to enable quadruped robots to move about quickly and effectively, avoid falls through self-correcting movements, and imitate the running motion of living animals. In addition, under the grant, Poulakakis is developing experiences for K-12 teachers that are intended to stimulate interest for budding engineers.

Biomechanics research demonstrates that springs and running are intimately related. When you run, the knee of the leg that is on the ground initially bends and then extends to prepare the body for take-off. During knee bending, energy is stored in elastic elements such as tendons or muscle fibers. Then, this energy is released during knee extension, pushing the body upward and forward.”

— Ioannis Poulakakis, assistant professor, University of Delaware

Cleans up after supper and puts the kids to bed…

A market research survey conducted in January indicates that the majority of people (68%) are in favor of domestic robots. In addition, nearly half of the respondents (41%) reported that they’d consider paying for such a robot with a loan.

Thinking about building the perfect robot? It should have a more humanlike voice that should sound not too young or too old. Interestingly, 51% also preferred that the voice wouldn’t sound too feminine or too masculine either. In terms of appearance, it would be more humanlike than machinelike, a little on the funny side, more colorful than metallic, more round than square shaped, and allow for personal design, perhaps like buying a car.”

— Press Release, Persuadable Research Corporation

The researchers uncovered a long list of desired abilities for domestic robots to help out with. It includes moving heavy things, providing home security, cleaning windows, doing laundry, and — my personal wish-list topper — washing floors and dishes.

So, what does your robot do?


© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

Researchers Test Social Media’s Potential Effect on Political Decisions

Researchers are developing sophisticated artificial intelligence tools that could automatically aggregate and analyze the large amounts of information being generated by social networks. The 9.1 million Euro FUPOL project “aims to provide a completely new approach to traditional politics.” It is being implemented by a group of 17 partners, who hope their work will help to improve the planning and realization of social policies.

“The processing of information made available by social networks will change the way in which politicians communicate with the people and their decision-making processes. The project will contribute to the sustainable development of cities and will lower the barrier between citizens and politicians.”

— Miguel Mújica, researcher, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB)

The project partners include members of “Major Cities of Europe” (MCE) along with the city of Yantai, in the Shandong Province of the People’s Republic of China. Initial areas of focus for the research include urban planning, land use, sustainable development, migration, and urban segregation.

Learn more at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-01/uadb-nsd011212.php

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

Snake Movement Inspires Search-and-Rescue Robot Design

All-terrain search-and-rescue robots must be able to move over a wide variety of surfaces, explore tight spaces, and ascend slopes of varying degrees. Some robots can already do these types of things, but most of them need to consume hefty amounts of energy to so do. Now, researchers at Georgia Tech have designed a more flexible, energy-efficient search-and-rescue robot by observing the way snakes move.

Scalybot 2, a robot that mimics the sinuous locomotion of snakes, was developed by Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. candidate Hamid Marvi at Georgia Tech. “By using their scales to control frictional properties, snakes are able to move large distances while exerting very little energy,” Marvi explains.

Snakes are highly maligned creatures. I really like that Hamid’s research is showing the public that snakes can help people.”

— Joe Mendelson, curator of herpetology, Zoo Atlanta

Learn more at http://www.gatech.edu/newsroom/release.html?nid=79331

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIHlRLKMG9M

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.