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Team of researchers from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi being awarded a check of twenty thousand dollars
The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station awarded $20,000 to a team of researchers to research and develop a Community Infrastructure Resilience Index tool. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) awarded $20,000 to a team of researchers from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) at the 2018 TEES Annual Research Conference this summer. 

The winning team will research and develop a Community Infrastructure Resilience Index (CIRI) tool designed to help decision-makers determine funding priorities for improving community infrastructure. This planning and assessment tool determines the resilience of critical infrastructure systems to stressors related to various natural and human-caused hazards.

“The problem we are trying to address is that small or medium communities do not have the capability to identify or prioritize projects that will significantly improve community resilience,” said Dr. Hua Zhang, an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering at A&M-Corpus Christi. “This leads to an inability to compete for and win capital investment.”

The research team wants these communities to ultimately use CIRI to guide their capital investments and to become more competitive for funding because they will be able to demonstrate the benefits of potential infrastructure projects.

The CIRI research team includes Zhang; Dr. Lee Clapp, professor and associate dean of the Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering at Texas A&M-Kingsville; Dr. William Kitch, professor and chair of the David L. Hirschfeld Department of Engineering at Angelo State University; Dr. Emmanuel Nzewi, professor and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at PVAMU; and Ed Brickley, strategic business development manager at TEEX. The team competed against 18 other research collaborations created at the conference to take the top award.

TEES launched the annual research conference in 2016, giving representatives from TEES regional divisions an opportunity to come together and expand the research capacity in Texas by tapping into the talent of the TEES network. This is the second year collaborations developed at the conference competed for seed funding at the end of the conference.

The CIRI team is already putting their $20,000 award to work. They’ve completed a review of existing infrastructure rating systems and are developing a formal presentation of their findings and research framework. The team anticipates submitting a grant proposal in September and will soon initiate 3-5 pilot evaluations, engaging a variety of community stakeholders and industrial end users.

“It’s exciting to see researchers come from all over the state and discover new ways of working together to meet some of Texas’ greatest needs,” said Dr. Dimitris Lagoudas, deputy director of TEES. “At the TEES Annual Research Conference, we encourage the researchers to form innovative, risk-taking, highly needed collaborations knowing there is a chance for the top teams to earn seed funding to continue their work and to serve as a catalyst for additional funding opportunities. I look forward to what our new teams accomplish in the next year.” 

In addition to the $20,000 award given to CIRI, TEES also gave $2,500 in seed funding to 10 additional collaborations created at the 2018 conference. To see a list of all the 2018 collaborations visit /research/regionals/collaborations/.