Friday, June 17, 2016

First of Its Kind Seismic Test on Helical Piles Exceeds Expectations

As geotechnical and structural engineers work to better understand the survivability of different building types under seismic loads, a key frontier of study is deep foundations. This study, the first of its kind, sought to better understand the performance of helical pile deep foundations under earthquake conditions. 

During the Feb. 22, 2011 earthquake, Christchurch, New Zealand was damaged by a tremor that registered at 6.3 magnitude. Due to the soils in the area and the shallow focus point, some areas of the city were devastated by a peak ground acceleration of almost two times the force of gravity. This peak ground acceleration, one of the most powerful ever recorded, severely damaged or destroyed many buildings in downtown Christ Church and caused the tragic collapse of the CTV office building, killing 115 people.

A post earthquake survey found that all buildings constructed on helical piles survived with minimal structural damage, adding to the qualitative proof that helical piles perform well as foundations in active seismic zones. However, until now, no empirical studies had been undertaken to validate these anecdotal observations.

Amy Cerato, a helical pile researcher and associate professor in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma, traveled to the University of California, San Diego, to test these questions on the largest outdoor shake table in the world.

“We are standing at the world’s largest outdoor shake facility. The table has a 40 million pound payload. As you can see, we have the laminar soil box on the table, on the platen. It is 15 feet tall by 22 feet long by 10 feet wide. So we have 10 helical piles that we installed and we’re going to test them seismically to see how they react to earthquake loads. And right now, the crew is loading on the inertial weights which will simulate a building load on top of each pile.”

Several pile manufacturing companies donated materials to the project. And installer and manufacturer, Tort Seal Foundations, traveled to the site to perform the installation in a soil box mounted on the table. Piles of several types and sizes were tested including round and square members, plus a push pile to compare with the helical piles. To measure the shaking forces and resulting deformation of the test subjects, the team fitted accelerometers and strain gages to the test members. To simulate independent axial loads on the pile members, on-site contractor, Tort Seal, bolted cylindrical concrete weights onto each pile. During a later test, a sand skid was used to simulate a building supported by a group of piles. The test included a simulation of the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the 1995 Great Hanshin, also know as the Kolbe earthquake in Japan. Both seismic events caused extreme damage to structures due to very high acceleration forces at the surface.

“I think it went very well," Cerato said. "It performed exactly like we thought it would in the analysis. Everyone was telling me that all the weights were going to bang together and everything was going to shear off, but our analysis indicated that the helical piles were going to behave a specific
way, and thankfully, everything went as planned. "There was a lot of displacement of the soil around the piles, but that’s exactly what you would expect to happen in the real world," Cerato stated. And this test is actually a good one to show that even though we hit the piles with a 6.9 earthquake, we came back and hit it again with an even bigger earthquake so for aftershock effects, these helical piles held up very well. It took seven earthquakes today and nothing failed. So we are very pleased with the results."

Work continues to analyze the vast quantity of data obtained during this experiment. However, Dr. Cerato’s initial observations and calculations indicate that helical piles exceeded expectations for performance under seismic loading.

The Large High-Performance Outdoor Shake Table is supported in part by the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Engineering Simulation (NEES) program of the National Science Foundation under Award Number CMMI-0927178.

Academic Sponsors: UC San Diego, The University of Oklahoma, Western University-
On-Site Contractor: TorcSill

Sponsors: Hubbell, Ideal Group, Magnum Helical Piles, Techno Metal Post, TorcSill, Coliath
Tech Screw Pile System, Helical Pile (The Global Information Source for The Helical Pile Industry), Ram Jack, Deep Foundations Institute, Bristol Foundation Technology, Cerato Geotechnical Engineering, CTL|Thompson, Foundation Support Works, MacLean Power Systems, Helical Pile Association, Lally Pipe & Tube, Atlas Tube, Patriot Foundation Technology, EXL Tube.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

OU-Tulsa Telecom Students win National Competition

TULSA, OKLA (April 18, 2016) — Five OU-Tulsa Telecommunications Engineering students — Nishaal Parmar, Mitun Talukder, Satish Thomas, Sandeep Sharma, and Mohamed Elgrew — won first place in the national Case Study competition at the 2016 Conference on Telecommunications and Information Technology. 

This is OU-Tulsa’s third win in six years. “I’m incredibly proud of our Telecom Engineering program, headed by Dr. Pramode Verma, and all our students who continue to represent OU-Tulsa on a national level,” said Campus President John. H. Schumann, M.D. 

The national Case Study competition is a highlight of the annual conference, hosted by ITERA (Information and Telecommunications Education and Research Association), where teams of graduate and undergraduate students present their solution to a challenging network design. 
This year, the challenge was to design a network to support public safety cameras and systems. OU-Tulsa’s team presented their solution, Advanced Integrated Security Solutions: Metropolitan Park Area Emergency Response and Surveillance. 

“In addition to the technical aspects of a network, students must include critical business and project management issues such as return on investment, business plan, and life cycle costs,” said ITERA Board Chairman Dr. Michael Bowman. “We congratulate OU-Tulsa’s winning team.” 
This year’s competition took place April 8-10, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky and was sponsored by Facebook. 

OU-Tulsa offers a wide range of 30+ undergraduate, Master’s, and Doctorate level degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Programs include architecture, engineering, education, nursing, sonography, public health, occupational and physical therapy, human relations, library and information studies, organizational dynamics, public administration, social work, as well as medicine through the OU-TU School of Community Medicine. Each year, over 250,000 patients receive primary and specialty care at the three OU Physicians clinics throughout the Tulsa area. Since 1957, OU-Tulsa has provided higher education to NE Oklahoma and moved to the 60 acre Schusterman Campus in 1999. For more information, visit

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Electrical Engineering Student Receives Four Awards for his Research Paper

Tyler Helps
Senior electrical engineering major, Tyler Helps, has received four awards for his paper titled “Enhancement of a Bluetooth Battery Management System.” The paper presents a Bluetooth based Battery Management System (BMS) that uses modern balancing technology and a wireless connection to replace traditional wire bundles inside of multi-cell battery packs. By integrating contemporary cell management technology with the mobile systems consumers carry in their pocket every day, one can combine the safety and care of battery management with the ultimate convenience of wireless connectivity.

Helps paper placed in the following competitions:

1st place – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Paper Competition in February 2016 at the Ford AV in Oklahoma City

2nd place – North Area Student Paper Competition in March 2016
The North Area serves the Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Southern Illinois region.

Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Research - Phi Kappa Phi at The University of Oklahoma’s Undergraduate Research Day in April 2016 in Norman, Oklahoma.

2nd place – IEEE Region Five Paper Competition in April 2016 in Kansas City

Spiers New Technology, Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology fund Helps’ research. His advisors are University of Oklahoma School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Instructor Jacob Henderson and Research Assistant Professor, John Dyer

Helps graduates in May and has accepted a position at National Instruments in Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tulsa-based research expected to transform everyday medicine

Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2016 12:00 am | Updated: 7:42 am, Mon Feb 15, 2016.By GINNIE GRAHAM News Columnist | Tulsa World

OU-Tulsa researchers Dr. Hazem Refai (left) and Omar Al Kalaa are leading the way in development of wireless medical devices with assistance from the Tandy Supercomputer at the Oklahoma Innovation Institute. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World

 Imagine a hospital room without wires. A patient could move freely as sensors instantly send information about heart rate, organ functions and hormone levels to the doctor.

Advances in wireless medical devices go beyond a medical facility’s walls.

Parents with a diabetic toddler could check the child’s glucose levels from their smartphones. Patients with chronic illnesses wouldn’t have to stop by offices for vital-sign checkups.

This is a sliver of the research being conducted by the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa’s Telecommunications Engineering program in partnership with the Oklahoma Innovation Institute’s Tandy Supercomputer. This type of innovation originating in Tulsa is expected to be transformative to the medical community.

It’s an optimistic — and inspiring — view of the future when told by Hazem Refai, Williams professor in Telecommunications Networking and Electrical and Computer Engineering at OU-Tulsa. He’s also the director for the Center for Wireless and Elecromagnetic Compliance and Design.

Read more.

Friday, January 22, 2016

OU Students Showcase Climate Game in D.C.

Posted: Thursday, January 21, 2016 10:18 pm
Four students from the University of Oklahoma are showcasing a project this week at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Read the Norman Transcript story linked below.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tar Creek Superfund Site Clean Up- One Gallon of Clear Water at a Time

New life is being brought to the Tar Creek Superfund Site in far northeastern Oklahoma. It's the nation's worst toxic waste site. Plans are now underway to build a second water treatment site. Funding has been requested for a third.  

View the video. about Dr. Robert Nairn and team's great work to bring new life to the Tar Creek Superfund Site, one gallon of clear water at a time.

By Charles Ely, Channel 8, ABC Tulsa

Friday, October 23, 2015

OU Engineering Professor Leads NSF Grant on Infrastructure Resilience

Whether it is malicious or an act of Mother Nature, an infrastructure attack could cripple the nation as more people depend on the interconnected services such as water, electricity, communication, transportation and health care.

University of Oklahoma School of Industrial and Systems Engineering researcher Kash Barker is leading a team to evaluate how analytics from multiple sources can increase network resilience. The National Science Foundation project, titled “Resilience Analytics: A Data-Driven Approach for Enhanced Interdependent Network Resilience,” is a cooperative research effort between OU Gallogly College of Engineering colleague Charles Nicholson and researchers at the University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stevens Institute of Technology, Penn State University, Virginia Tech and the University of North Texas.

“Resilience is broadly defined as the ability of a system to withstand the effects of a disruption and then recover rapidly and efficiently,” Barker said. “As disruptions become more frequent – even inevitable – designing resilience into our infrastructure systems, such as the transportation and electric power networks, is becoming more important.”

For example, when a large-scale tornado hits, debris may be strewn across roads, power lines disabled and citizens injured. The related systems – transportation, power grid and emergency care – all rely on each other. Hospitals require electricity to serve an influx of patients, but roads free of debris to repair downed power lines also are required. Understanding how all such systems work together throughout a disruptive event helps decision-makers make better decisions regarding allocation and scheduling of resources.

Barker’s project is part of the first round of funding for the National Science Foundation activity known as CRISP: Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes. These three- and four-year projects, each with funding up to $2.5 million, are part of a multiyear initiative on risk and resilience.

The National Science Foundation’s fiscal year 2015 investment in CRISP is a multidisciplinary collaboration between the Directorates for Engineering, Computer and Information Science and Engineering and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. As a result, Barker’s project is a multi-disciplinary approach to evaluating and planning for resilience. The systems engineering perspective analyzes how these networks behave together and can be optimized. Computer and data sciences are addressing how to turn large amounts of data into something meaningful to improve interdependent resilience, and the social sciences evaluate how the resilience of the society depends on the resilience of the physical infrastructure.

 “Analyzing data from a variety of sources is important,” Barker said. “We emphasize the role of the community in providing data about not only their experience, but what is happening in the underlying physical infrastructure to give us a better idea of the behavior of interdependent networks before, during and after a disruption.”

Knowledge from these will lead to innovations in critical infrastructure, strengthening community support functions and in delivering even a broader range of goods and services.

Pramod Khargonekar, National Science Foundation assistant director for engineering, predicts the new understanding of infrastructure, combined with advances in modeling and smart technologies, will offer important, groundbreaking discoveries to improve resilience. “These research investments will help support national security, economy and people for decades to come,” Khargonekar said.

The Gallogly College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma challenges students to solve the world’s toughest problems through a powerful combination of education, entrepreneurship, research, and community service and student competitions. Research is focused on both basic and applied topics of societal significance, including biomedical engineering, energy, engineering education, civil infrastructure, nanotechnology and weather technology.

The programs within the college’s eight areas of study are consistently ranked in the top third of engineering programs in the United States. The college faculty has achieved research expenditures of more than $22 million and created 12 start-up companies.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, its budget is $7.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 48,000 competitive proposals for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.