CEE department begins Smart Bridge and building construction


Photo Courtesy of Reifsteck Reid

Phase II of the Civil and Environmental Modernization Plan features a new building addition and a smart bridge at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, connecting the Hydrosystems and Newmark Laboratories. Construction is expected to be finished by summer 2020.

By Rohan Ramani, Contributing Writer

The civil and environmental engineering department began construction for a new building addition to the Hydrosystems Laboratory and a smart bridge, which will connect the new building and Newmark Laboratory.

A smart bridge is similar to a regular bridge, but contains the latest technology.

These additions are part of Phase II of the CEE Modernization Plan. Phase I of the project, the building of the M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Student Center, is already complete.

To mark the beginning of Phase II, the University held a ceremony on March 30. This phase is expected to be completed in the summer of 2020.

According to the CEE website, the faculty committee is taking various ideas for the smart bridge and the new building from all of the department’s areas of study. Some ideas include wired and wireless instrumentation, fiber optic cables, pressure sensors and environmental sensors. Sensors will provide and display data on a screen on the bridge.

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    The goal of the bridge is to provide information to students, which can help them better understand data that may only have been theoretical if this bridge did not exist.

    In addition to the bridge being a learning tool, the website said the CEE department believes this bridge can be landmark for the campus in years to come. Very few of state-of-the-art technology bridges exist on university campuses around the world.

    Most of the funding for this project is money donated by Lalit Bahl, an alumnus of the University, and his wife, Kavita Kinra. Celeste Arbogast, senior director of advancement operations for the CEE department, said the bridge will be named after them.

    “It will be much more than just a pedestrian bridge connecting the two buildings,” Arbogast said in an email. “It will be fully instrumented with the latest technology to demonstrate to students the effects of a range of forces on structures — forces like wind and pedestrian traffic over the bridge.”

    Arbogast said this project aims to not only modernize facilities but also the department’s curriculum and methods of instruction.

    “Illinois’ civil and environmental engineering program is recognized as one of the best in the world, so our students go on to become leaders in the profession,” she said. “This modernization will ensure that these CEE leaders get the best possible education during their time at Illinois.”

    Some students in CEE also believe the bridge can help further their education. Jared Motley, freshman in Engineering, said this will be a good learning opportunity.

    “(The smart bridge) will help the civil department by connecting Newmark Lab to the Hydrosystems Lab, making it easy for students to utilize both buildings,” Motley said in an email. “Also, the sensors and features included on the bridge will make it a valuable learning tool and area for collaboration between students.”

    Motley also said the smart bridge is something very important for the CEE department in the future.

    “The smart bridge is a very exciting addition to the Civil Engineering Lab,” he said. “As a school with one of the best civil engineering programs in the nation, it is important to see that the University of Illinois is adding this innovative technology to the lab so students are able to have access to the latest and greatest learning technology.”

    Christian Groenewold, freshman in Engineering, also said the bridge would be very important to learning and the department as a whole.

    “The smart bridge will help the department, as it will showcase new types of sustainable infrastructure and allow students and faculty to collaborate more frequently,” Groenewold said in an email. “The smart bridge will also serve as a teaching tool which allows students to observe the effects of different forces on structures.”

    Groenewold said the bridge can help motivate him to excel in the field and is also a source of pride.

    “Seeing the plans for the smart bridge make me even more excited about my education going forward,” he said. “With the implementation of the newest technology in CEE education, it proves why Illinois has one of the best CEE programs in the country and makes me proud of my college choice.”

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