The team will support navigation, flood risk management, water resources management, sediment management, and military engineering projects.
The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) has tasked the joint venture of Taylor Engineering and Woolpert with providing research and development services for its Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL). The $49 million, single-award task order contract will support CHL projects that advance navigation, flood risk management, water resources management, sediment management, and military engineering.
ERDC is the primary scientific research and development organization for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and oversees seven research laboratories across the U.S. Located in Vicksburg, CHL is responsible for the discovery, development, and delivery of coastal, estuarine, and hydraulic water resources research in both the Civil Works Program and military domains.
Woolpert Vice President Eric Dillinger said that the JV leadership team has extensive experience managing projects for CHL, ERDC, and USACE. This team includes Woolpert Director of Advisory Services Jeff Lillycrop, a former ERDC technical director with 33 years of experience serving CHL, and Taylor Engineering President Jim Marino, a former USACE officer with over 20 years of USACE experience, including three and a half years leading the military research program at the Coastal Engineering Research Center before it was consolidated into CHL. Marino is the managing partner for the JV.
“The Taylor-Woolpert joint venture represents decades of focused and complementary expertise coming together,” Dillinger said. “This contract will be led by a team intimately familiar with and fully capable of meeting the complex research needs of the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory.”
Taylor Engineering Vice President Christopher Bender said this is the first contract executed under Taylor and Woolpert’s new Mentor-Protégé Program agreement, which was approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration last year.
“Taylor and Woolpert are currently working as professional partners on multiple projects across a variety of service lines,” Bender said. “We look forward to this next chapter working alongside Woolpert and providing a truly world-class team of engineers and researchers for ERDC and its missions.”
Global research and infrastructure advisory firms are serving as subconsultants for this contract, which is now underway. Those firms include Applied Research Associates and Moffatt & Nichol, as well as Alden Labs, Desert Research Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Jackson State University.
Since 1983, Taylor Engineering Inc. has provided leading-edge solutions to challenges in the water environment. The company focuses its attention on water-related engineering, planning, management, and environmental challenges with emphasis on coastal regions for public, private, and government clients. A Federal Small Business and a Jacksonville Business Journal’s 2022 and 2023 Best Places to Work, Taylor Engineering has over 50 employees with three offices. Taylor Engineering’s six service groups, Coastal Engineering, Coastal Planning, Dredging and Navigation, Environmental, Water Resources, and Waterfront Engineering, along with our Coastal and Marine Geosciences Laboratory, deliver leading-edge solutions in the water environment. For more information, visit www.taylorengineering.com.
Woolpert is the premier architecture, engineering, geospatial (AEG), and strategic consulting firm, with a vision to become one of the best companies in the world. We innovate within and across markets to effectively serve public, private, and government clients worldwide. Woolpert is a Global Top 100 Geospatial Company, a Top 100 ENR Global Design firm, has earned seven Great Place to Work certifications, and actively nurtures a culture of growth, inclusion, diversity, and respect. Founded in 1911 in Dayton, Ohio, Woolpert has been America’s fastest-growing AEG firm since 2015. Woolpert has over 2,000 employees and more than 60 offices on five continents. For more information, visit woolpert.com.
Rowan University’s Center for Research & Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATES) has been awarded a $30 million, five-year contract—with the first two years funded at $11.5 million— from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), to expand Arctic region research.
Led by Yusuf Mehta, Ph.D., and Ayman Ali, Ph.D., CREATES researchers are developing innovative construction technologies and materials to withstand fluctuating temperatures and surface conditions in cold regions impacted by climate change. The work spans a wide range of projects, including the design and evaluation of new pavement materials, as well as their production and maintenance.
Among other projects, the additional Army Ground Advanced Technology funding will support:
Rising temperatures, thawing permafrost and eroding coastlines are challenging the military’s transportation infrastructure in the Arctic, affecting roads, runways and bridges. Research engineers from ERDC’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) work closely with universities around the country, guiding studies, providing expertise and helping to develop the next generation of engineers.
“Our collaboration with Army Corps research engineers allows us to explore creative solutions for cold regions, from pavements that can melt ice and detect frost to more resilient asphalt and concrete materials that can withstand cold conditions,” Mehta said. “Even better, we’re developing the next generation of engineers who will continue to advance the field of transportation engineering.”
Accompanied by a team of scientists, Dr. Ivan Beckman, CRREL deputy director, spent several days recently at Rowan University visiting labs and hearing the latest updates on the center’s progress. He said he was impressed by the center’s facilities, laboratories and procedures, as well as the professionalism of Rowan faculty and students.
“The lifeblood of CRREL is academia,” Beckman said. “Students, scientific research and very basic scientific understanding is very important to our mission and cold regions research. We always seek out great ideas and great partnerships with universities.”
In addition to site visits, Danielle Kennedy, CRREL program director and a research civil engineer, meets weekly with various teams from CREATES.
“We have been working with Rowan since 2016 and the CREATES program has grown a lot since then,” Kennedy noted. “It’s helped us grow our technology areas at the ERDC a lot, as well. We’re going to conferences with the students and presenting work together. We’re publishing papers together. It’s really been a beneficial relationship for both ERDC and Rowan. I think there’s a lot of potential for future capabilities with all these projects that we’re developing now.”
The collaboration includes workforce development. Earlier this year, CRREL hired Seth Wagner, a Rowan University doctoral student at CREATES. Wagner visited campus recently in his professional capacity.
“I went through graduate school specifically so I could continue doing research,” said Wagner, a civil engineer who received his bachelor’s degree in 2016 and his master’s degree in 2019, both from Rowan. “And now I’m being paid full time to do research. It’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for.”
Besides driving innovation and developing new technologies, the center is fully invested in workforce development, noted Rowan University Provost Tony Lowman.
“Ever since CREATES launched in 2016, Dr. Mehta and his team have worked with industry and government partners to meet their needs for workforce training and research goals,” Lowman said. “What has been particularly successful is how well they prepare students to continue that work after graduation. This close working relationship with our partners is exactly what we hoped to accomplish and we’re excited to see where our graduates go next.”
In addition to projects and internships for undergraduates, more than 40 master’s and doctoral students in the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering are pursuing CREATES-related research, contributing to the rapid growth of the college’s graduate programs, said Dean Giuseppe Palmese.
“Dr. Mehta and his colleagues are demonstrating the power of our hands-on, minds-on engineering education,” Palmese said. “This award will significantly expand research opportunities for many more students. Their work will make an impact.”
The more the merrier.
That common saying could be the motto for an effort within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to create a near real-time system that would track the safety and accessibility of our nation’s inland waterways.
Taking advantage of vessels already on the water, an effort in the works at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) will use those vessels’ depth finders and GPS to create a snapshot of a channel and any obstructions that may exist.
This information, crowdsourced for private and public vessels, would support USACE’s existing survey fleet and reduce the impact of any threats to navigation on the 25,000 miles of inland waterways USACE maintains.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has a fleet of surveyors that do highly accurate, precise surveys on a periodic schedule for all of the waterways,” said Dr. Brandan Scully, a research civil engineer with ERDC’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory. “But given the nature of those surveys, cost, time, available vessels, etc., we do not have the ability to continuously monitor.
“In order for us to do that with traditional resources, it would cost millions of dollars.”
Scully said crowdsourcing bathymetry would use equipment that already exists on vessels, such as depth finders and GPS, and supplement it with a device that would transmit that data. Once collected in a cloud, the data would then be quickly analyzed and aggregated with data from other vessels in the same area to give a picture of that portion of the waterway.
“It’s relatively simple. It’s like plugging into a router at your home for the internet, and it aggregates the position and the depth observed by the vessel and sends it off to a cloud computing resource,” Scully said. “And because there are many more waterway users, because they’re working all the time, we can have a rolling picture of parts of the waterway based on who is in the crowd and how much they are moving around.”
Scully said this information – this picture – could then be used to prioritize the actions of the USACE survey fleet and its ability to capture accurate scans to better observe any concerns with navigation. It also provides the ability to watch the waterways between scheduled surveys.
As for the next step, Scully said ERDC is currently working with public and private organizations to determine the best device and setup to roll the program out on a larger scale for a proof of concept. In addition, he said there is still work to be done on where to best house the data and distribute the information.
In a discussion at the recent national meeting of the Association of the United States Army, Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, 55th Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of USACE, said he envisions the use of this crowdsourced bathymetry as a sort of digital traffic map for inland waterways, much in the same way as popular apps on cellphones provide updates on highway traffic. He also said a program such as this would help in USACE’s response to natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
“An example I would use is we just had Hurricane Idalia come through the state of Florida just a few weeks ago and the South Atlantic Division has five survey vessels that have to cover 12 ports in the state,” Spellmon said. “And that takes time after a storm. You have to get our survey crews there and work with the Coast Guard to reopen those ports.”
Spellmon said being able to pull data from public and private vessels already navigating in the area would provide “real-time processes of the federal navigation channel, and we would not have to put a survey vessel in that area right away.”
Scully said the analogy of a traffic app is a good one.
“Those apps tell you the speed of traffic and where the police might be and stuff like that,” he said. “But what this is telling us, essentially, is where are the potholes? Where are the speed bumps?”
The critical portions of this research are determining the technology to use to transmit and collect the data (whether that is a private or public solution), finding ways to aggregate and analyze it, and then figuring out how best to push out the information to those who need it, such as commercial operations and teams tasked with clearing any threats to navigation.
“That’s one of the nice things about ERDC … we filter the solutions and find the right answer, or we find the best available answer right now,” Scully said. “We have to have a good match between the Army’s mission and the provider’s capability.”
While the program continues to wait for additional funding to advance the technology, Scully said the exciting part is there is already buy-in from some Districts and Divisions, who believe such a technology would help their inland waterway operations.
“The Districts and Divisions really want this. I have been working with the Mississippi Valley Division and the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. They want this as fast as they can,” Scully said. “They have shippers willing to go out and buy this on their own.”
Scully said this technology and idea are not novel -- similar technology is already being used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for ocean and coastal operations, but it would be the first use of this technology on inland navigation.
“Mariners on our inland waterways are not necessarily going to benefit knowing the channel is in good shape,” Scully said. “They will benefit more knowing that there’s an obstruction and where that obstruction is.”
A Marine Innovation Unit (MIU) representative observed a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demonstration of automated additive construction techniques at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, October 19, 2023.
Marine Corps Maj. Max Wineland, a special operations command liaison officer representing MIU, observed the technique used to build a concrete structure and perform blast testing conducted on a 3D printed structure. The event was held to help educate service members on this technology and create a new way to quickly build safe and reliable structures.
“There were two main reasons the MIU got involved,” said Wineland. “One, there was a call to bring in subject matter experts to participate in the build using this 3D printing technique to provide the team feedback. The second main reason is so that we’re staying abreast of new and upcoming technology that is being developed by the Army Corps of Engineers that the Marine Corps might be interested in pursuing in the future.”
Before the blast, participants began learning about this technology in a classroom setting.
“We trained Air Force, Army and Marines on how to go through and print,” said Megan Krieger, program manager of the additive construction program, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We were in a classroom setting where we trained them on everything from the materials development all the way through to operating the computer and completing the construction process.”
It was important the trainees had a basic understanding of the materials they were working with.
“The goal is to do expedient construction to really benefit the war fighters and to essentially reduce the logistics to be able to print with locally available materials,” said Krieger. “We are not using proprietary materials; we go into a site and we are able to print within days of us arriving.”
After learning about additive printing, the service members jumped into action. With the help of USACE, they completed the project in five days.
According to Krieger, this is the first time a full-size building was created using additive construction. Additive construction is when an object is created one layer at a time. This structure, a small, rectangular concrete building with no windows and only one door, took about 18 hours to print. Despite having the capabilities to build more complex structures, it is important they keep it basic.
“When we do the blast testing, we have to have very simple geometry in order to collect reliable data,” explained Krieger. “Right now, we’re testing the baseline; it’s normal geometry with no improvements.”
With the structure completed, the blast testing commenced. The subject matter experts were there to assess the damage once the dust cleared.
“The weapons-effects specialists have techniques to look at cracks to see how the structure responded to the explosion and they can assess the strength from there,” said Wineland.
The USACE team hopes to continue this joint project and eventually create software design and repositories to help make printing a simple, quick process for service members.
“We really want the uniformed personnel to be able to take this technology and build for themselves,” said Krieger.