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Update on MCEER Consortium NEES Activities

This is the next installment in a regular series of articles on the progress of the MCEER-related George E. Brown, Jr. Network for the Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) program. Previous articles have appeared in Vol. 15, Nos. 1 and 3.

Articles Below:

UNR and RPI Early Adopter Sites for NEESgrid

The University of Nevada, Reno and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are two of three early adopter sites of NEESgrid, a network infrastructure that will link earthquake engineering sites across the United States and create a national virtual earthquake engineering laboratory. Oregon State University in Corvallis is the third site. The sites were chosen because they are home to the three main types of equipment used: centrifuges (RPI), shake tables (UNR) and tsunami wave tanks (OSU).

The sites will test capabilities of the NEES grid as they are developed and help NEES researchers create a common infrastructure that can be used across sites and for all NEES applications. They will test collaboration tools, local storage systems and data repositories, streamlining and video services and tele-operations of experimental equipment. The ultimate goal of the NEESgrid is to allow earthquake engineers to conduct experiments with colleagues around the country using distributed experimental equipment, operate experimental equipment remotely, run computer simulations on remote high-performance computers, and access repositories of earthquake engineering data for analysis and comparison to simulations and field data.

The principal investigator for the NEESgrid is Dan Reed, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 photo of pipe test
Cornell’s facility will allow large scale testing of underground lifelines

Cornell-RPI Experimental Facility Receives Award Under NEES Phase 2

As part of NEES Phase 2, Cornell University, in partnership with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is developing advanced experimental facilities at both full-scale and centrifuge-scale for testing, evaluating, and analyzing soil-structure- foundation interaction (SFSI) in critical lifeline facilities. Professors H. Stewart and T. O’Rourke of Cornell and M. O’Rourke and T. Abdoun of RPI are co-PIs in the development of a large displacement soil-structure interaction facility for lifeline systems at Cornell, supplemented by centrifuge equipment at RPI.

In this unique world-class resource, to be implemented between 2002 and 2004, the response of underground lifelines to ground deformation will be comprehensively tested both in prototype scale and in small-scale centrifuge tests, with the less expensive centrifuge experiments used to define the parameters for the full-scale tests as well as to extend them through parametric evaluations. For more information, please contact Prof. Harry Stewart, via e-mail at or check out the web site at

UB Facilities Update

conceptual drawing of UB's planned shake table 
This conceptual drawing shows a cut away view of the dual shake table configuration planned for the UB facility

At the University at Buffalo, the NEES facility is proceeding on track, on time and on budget for completion in September of 2004. The construction is underway and can be monitored via web cam at It is anticipated that the building will be complete in October 2003, and construction of the new shake table will begin at that time. Development and design of the LAN systems and the development of hybrid testing controls have been completed using simulators. For the latest information on progress, see the web site at

Evaluations from the recent NSF Site Visit, held February 10-11, 2003, were very positive, with the site team especially noting the team’s progress to date, and their leadership effort and involvement in NEES activities on the national level.

RPI Facilities Update

The NEES centrifuge upgrade and networking plan at RPI is proceeding on schedule. The subcontracts for the in-flight 2D shaker, in-flight robot and centrifuge modification have been awarded and will be commissioned in 2003. A bonus arising from the centrifuge modification will be a 50% increase in capacity from 100 to 150 g-ton, which will allow testing of larger models.

The development of the networking and tele-participation capability is also on schedule, helped by the selection of RPI as one of the three early adopter sites. A new state-of-the art wireless data acquisition system is already operational and two rooms are being remodeled to create a state-of-the-art tele-participation facility. Additional hardware is being acquired and connected to the NEES electronic grid, and software is being developed to start a pilot project (in cooperation with the U. of California at San Diego) at the end of 2003. It is anticipated that the pilot project, which will include both faculty and students at RPI and UCSD, will make maximum use of the new tele-participation capability and in-flight robot at the RPI centrifuge site.

Additional developments in instrumentation, advanced sensors and centrifuge test visualization are also underway. A high speed camera was acquired and commissioned, collaborative work is proceeding on MEMS sensors with the NEES centrifuge team at the U. of California at Davis, and other sensor technologies are being evaluated for use in centrifuge experiments. An increasing number of visualizations have been conducted of dynamic centrifuge tests on liquefaction, lateral spreading, and their effect on the response of pile foundations and quay walls, on the basis of the corresponding recorded sensor information. These visualizations are available on the RPI centrifuge web site at

UNR Facilities Update

photo of a long span bridge supported on 2 shake tables 
A demonstration of the NEESgrid system used this model of a long span bridge supported on two shake tables.

The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) NEES facility successfully completed the construction of three biaxial shake tables and system acceptance tests on October 30, 2002.

UNR, as one of the three early adopter sites, has provided assistance to the System Integrators (SI) of NEES in the development, installation and evaluation of NEESgrid software and services including LabView DAQ VIs, NEES Streaming Data Server (NSDS) and drivers, Grid Services, tele-presence software and analysis tools. As part of the NEES awardees meeting, held in Reno on November 14-15, 2002, researchers demonstrated a preliminary, prototype version of the NEESgrid system. The demonstration involved real-time collaboration between the equipment site (UNR) and remote users; setting up of experimental parameters of shake table experiments on a model of a long-span bridge supported on two shake tables, real-time biaxial testing and data/video streaming; and post analysis of experimentally recorded data. More information is posted on the web site at

UNR also provided assistance and resources to the NEES system integrators for similar demonstrations at the Supercomputing Conference in Baltimore on November 16-22, 2002.

Workshop Explores Information Needs of NEES

On January 23-24, 2003, earthquake information providers and users of earthquake data and information were invited to a workshop to discuss and suggest future directions for information provision. Convened by the National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering (NISEE-Berkeley) and funded by the National Science Foundation, the workshop included researchers, engineering practitioners, librarians, and other information professionals. Dorothy Tao, Information Service, and Jane Stoyle, Publications, represented MCEER at the workshop.

The first speakers focused on earthquake reconnaissance. Charles Scawthorn, ABS Consulting Engineers, and Keith Porter, the George C. Housner Fellow at Caltech, proposed a distributed earthquake experience database that would act as a repository for a multitude of varied types of reconnaissance data. They proposed establishing a National Earthquake Experience Database (NEED), which would curate, maintain, and enhance access to the various types of data collected from earthquake-stricken regions. NEED would include geologic, seismological, geotechnical, strong motion, and teleseismic data, as well as other data from the natural and built environments.

Speaking for NEES were Robert Reitherman and Robert Nigbor from the Consortium for Universities in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE), who provided background on the mission of NEES, its organization, and timetables for NEES development. Reitherman and Nigbor also discussed the types of data and experimental information NEES intends to collect and share, as well as the probable infrastructure that will support such activities. Cherri Pancake, Oregon State University, and Anke Kamrath, UC San Diego, spoke about the role of information technology in the NEES project. According to Pancake, advanced IT will enable researchers to control and observe experiments from remote sites, reduce requirements for on-site presence, and much more. However, creating such a system is a major challenge. Many issues remain, such as defining standards and formats for metadata, establishing conventions for future retrieval of both experimental data and reports, data collection procedures, and so on.

Other speakers included Roger Borcherdt, U.S. Geological Survey, and chair of the EERI publications committee, who described the transformation of EERI’s Earthquake Spectra from a hard copy journal to an online, interactive publication, which links, through the aegis of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), its publisher, to a wealth of related references. Marjorie Greene, EERI, provided an overview of advances in the collection and dissemination of earthquake reconnaissance information, including the use of PDA’s in data collection and tracking field researchers by Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Roy Tennant, UC Berkeley, discussed E-Scholarship, an electronic scholarly publishing initiative of the California Digital Library at, which aims to change the paradigm of online scholarly publishing, as distinguished from commercial scholarly publishing.

The two day meeting provided participants with a comprehensive and highly pertinent overview of existing and state-of-the-art initiatives in information technology. The workshop also highlighted the many issues and challenges in the provision of earthquake information now and in the future and provided insight for possible new directions.


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