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$750,000 in Contracts Fund Florida Tech College of Engineering to Improve Roads, Superstructures

06/10/2013

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Paul Cosentino, Florida Institute of Technology professor of civil engineering and other Florida Tech faculty members have been awarded about $750,000 in research contracts from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for three projects.

In one contract, Cosentino, with Florida Tech College of Engineering faculty members Edward Kalajian, Albert Bleakley and Yahya Sharaf-Eldeen have begun work on a 24-month, $225,000 contract to develop tools that allow civil engineers to recognize new sites that could cause pile-driving problems. High pile rebound occurs as workmen install large piles, or foundations—as much as 100 feet long—with hammers to support the superstructure. The piles actually bounce up after going into the soil after each hammer blow. In some cases, 100,000-pound piles bounce up several inches following each hit, making them very difficult to install.

The research team will test soils at specified sites, evaluate the piles driven at these sites and produce information that allows the highway engineers to anticipate and avoid the bouncing pile phenomenon.

In the second contract, Cosentino and Bleakley will determine if ground-up tire chips can be re-used by blending them with soils below the asphalt or concrete driving surface. This 24-month, $250,000 contract may allow a percentage of tire waste to be re-used to improve drainage, which is critical for a long pavement life and helpful to the environment.

The FDOT’s project manager for both projects is David Horhota, geotechnical engineer at FDOT’s State Materials Office in Gainesville.

In the third contract, Cosentino and Principal Investigator L. Daniel Otero, Florida Tech Systems Engineering Department, will help FDOT bridge and light mast pole inspectors improve their efficiency during the 24-month, $273,980 contract. The contract is a “proof of concept” for using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for underside inspections of bridges over water and light mast poles.

The FDOT inspects approximately 7,000 bridges and 4,300 mast poles every two years. Bridge inspections can take weeks and require lane closures and pole inspections are tedious, requiring specialized equipment. The UAVs, particularly stable microcopters, will safely help inspectors gather data on bridge and pole defects. The FDOT’s project manager is Richard Kerr, director of the Structures Testing Lab for FDOT in Tallahassee.

Graduate doctoral and master’s program students, assisted by undergraduate research assistants, are also working with Cosentino on these projects. The final reports will be reviewed and approved by FDOT and disseminated nationwide to all 50 states.

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