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Infrastructure Technology Institute Receives New Funding

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October 26, 2005 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The recently enacted five-year federal surface transportation legislation includes $18 million for Northwestern University’s Infrastructure Technology Institute (ITI). The funds will continue and expand the institute’s activities in research, technology commercialization, education, management and policy studies, and community service related to the nation’s infrastructure.

“American infrastructure faces enormous challenges,” said David Schulz, who has been director of ITI since it was established in 1992. “We are not investing enough in replacing and expanding it, which means aging bridges and other facilities need careful monitoring to ensure their safety and serviceability. The institute’s nondestructive testing and evaluation research, particularly its remote monitoring innovations, provide better tools for engineers to manage facilities. Our work in innovative materials should result in more cost-effective infrastructure designs. And our education efforts, at both the university and K to 12 levels, will help produce the next generation of infrastructure engineering leaders.”

ITI has successfully deployed innovative infrastructure technologies at more than 60 sites in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The D.C. project last year involved designing, installing and operating a crack-monitoring system in the historic Blair House across from the White House. This temporary home for traveling heads of state and other dignitaries was monitored to evaluate the effects of Pennsylvania Avenue’s reconstruction on the building’s 200-year-old walls and structure. (No significant damage took place.)

The new funding comes with the designation by Congress of ITI as one of 10 National University Transportation Centers. An interdisciplinary center within the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the institute is currently developing a strategic plan for use of the renewed federal funding. The plan already anticipates a broader commitment to multi-disciplinary research, as evidenced by the Oct. 17 seminar ITI co-sponsored on rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The speakers included faculty from the Medill School of Journalism, the Kellogg School of Management and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the McCormick School.

The U.S. Department of Transportation also recently awarded ITI another grant of $3.9 million previously allocated by Congress. A portion of this funding is being used for ITI’s new headquarters in the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center on the Evanston campus. The remainder will support the institute’s research, education and other programs.

ITI’s state-of-the art facilities, located on the first floor of the new building, include a flexible student space designed to facilitate student work on team projects, a televideoconference center, a video editing lab, a workshop and laboratory for the institute’s research engineers to design and build equipment for field experimentation and technology deployment, and offices for faculty and staff.

Topics: University