Novel Solutions to Infrastructure Problems

Published Aug-25-17

A series of innovative ideas to fix US infrastructure problems.

American Society of Civil Engineers, United States

The Story:

Novel Solutions to Infrastructure Problems There's nothing quite like the thrill of an intellectual challenge and the carrot of possible financial reward to focus bright and creative minds on problem solving. The open innovation contest has fueled major innovations in numerous industries, from space and travel to engineering and television programming.

When even the most brilliant and successful companies can suffer an ideas drought, competitions provide them with a fresh source of opportunities and ideas from diverse sources outside their four walls.

One area that could do with a raft of innovative ideas is America's infrastructure. In the view of many, it is busted with vast and expensive improvements needed in aviation, bridges, roads, dams, energy and drinking water. The country is quite literally falling apart.

Turning to Open Innovation

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) believes the situation is critical and has been using open innovation to get creative and innovative cogs moving. One way it does this is through the ACSE Grand Challenge, and part of that is the ACSE Innovation Contest.

The competition is a forum for engineers and other intelligent and creative thinkers to put forward their ideas, projects and theories of how to build a better infrastructure for the future.

Ideas for the 2017 iteration of the contest came in from across the globe, and were submitted in five different categories. They were: innovative business models and technologies/next-generation transportation/resilience/sustainable (green) engineering/the Internet of Things.

The top three winners of the open innovation contest were:

'Subsurface Utilities Made Visible Again' by Larry Stolarczyk of Stolar Global Imaging LLC. This concept uses nondestructive and passive AM broadcast band radio readings as a utility locator technology to help pipeline-utility owners.

'PE-Cool System' by Utpal Datta and others from the University of Texas at San Antonio. This innovation aims to capture heat in asphalt pavement and convert it into electricity, and then cool down the surface temperature.

'AquaCharge' by Jonathan L. Bradshaw, a Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. His innovation is an optimization tool for enhancing water resiliency and sustainability by using storm water and recycled wastewater to augment groundwater recharge.

Urgent Solutions Required

Every four years, ACSE publishes its report card for the condition and performance of the country's infrastructure. The latest report from March 2017, said it deserves no better than a D+ rating, showing little improvement on the previous four years. There wasn't one single part of the framework that received an A grade. The need for solutions has never been greater.

Following ACSE’s competition the winners took part in a series of events to network and present their ideas to industry leaders.

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