“For a researcher, the best moments are when a significant success occurs in their studies,” said Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering, Amin Moghadam. “One of those successes for me was when I finished instrumenting two bridges, the Smart Road bridge and the Varina-Enon bridge, with state-of-the-art sensors and data acquisition systems.”

Moghadam, along with Virginia Tech Assistant Professor Rodrigo Sarlo and Mohammad AlHamaydeh, from the American University of Sharjah, is designing an integrated structural health monitoring (SHM) system with an intelligent transportation system, called nothing-on-road (NOR) bridge-weigh-in-motion (BWIM), for both structural integrity and traffic monitoring applications.

“We use the bridge strains under traffic loads to localize and weigh vehicles as they pass,” explained Sarlo. “This can lead to cheaper and more practical alternatives to traffic weight stations and on-road weigh-in-motion sensors, which can also be used to monitor bridge structural health.”

The overall goal is a more holistic design to instrumented bridges. The NOR-BWIM approach uses the instrumented bridge as a platform to find the velocity, number of axis, axle spacings, axle and gross weights, and the position of the trucks while nothing is installed on the road surface. “This system avoids many issues associate with other traditional systems such as lane closures and traffic disruption,” Moghadam said. “In addition, leveraging a single network of sensors for two tasks can significantly reduce overall costs and result in a more holistic design to instrumented bridges.

This study uses the two bridges to find whether NOR-BWIM systems would still work effectively on long-span concrete-box-girder bridges. The team is partnering with faculty in the structural engineering and materials program to apply the traffic information to the estimation of a bridge’s effective prestress, which decreases with age and can lead to excessive cracking.

When searching for a career path, Moghadam was drawn to civil engineering because he realized that “civil engineering is not only traditional aspects, but the CEE community is going toward smart cities and smart structures for infrastructure to be managed in a more efficient way,” he said. “That makes me even more excited to be working in this field as a researcher.”

He has been recognized for his research recently with the Pratt Graduate Fellowship at Virginia Tech, as well as the ISWIM Young Researcher Award. This award is given to those who work on intelligent traffic monitoring systems and recognizes their passion for this research focus through illustration of the scope of the project, technical approach, and anticipated or final conclusion. He will be honored with this award at the ISWIM conference in Melbourne, Australia in 2023.