staff, February 12, 2016

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During football and basketball games, BTN LiveBIG will spotlight notable examples of research, innovation and community service from around the conference. In-Game stories will provide more background on these features, and the opportunity to view the videos again.

June 16, 2014, is a date that will be long-remembered in Pilger, Nebraska.

It was on that day that a ?supercell? containing eight tornados ripped through the small town and the surrounding area. In the face of extremely powerful winds, homes were completely leveled and trees stripped of their bark. Grain bins were ripped from the ground, becoming deadly sheet-metal missiles.

The toll of this storm was two lives lost and more than $20 million in property damage. Fortunately, their fellow Nebraskans immediately came to their aid.

?People came from all over Nebraska to help,? said Dr. Richard Wood, assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. ?And that was just reflective of the culture here.?

Wood and his team were also on the scene to help, but in a different way.

?We saw it as an opportunity to go out and quantify damage,? he explained. ?We were looking for engineering shortcomings following the tornado event.?

With backgrounds in earthquake engineering and structural dynamics, Wood and his team of researchers have measured the impact of many other natural disasters, including the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Using state-of-the-art technologies, they look at the ways in which buildings respond to the stresses these events place on them.

?We have a laser scanner and an unmanned aerial system,? he said. ?And we use these tools to collect data to assess the structural health of buildings. What we want is to be able to objectively quantify and determine damage.?

[btn-post-package]Back in the lab, information gleaned from the laser scans and aerial reconnaissance is used to create ?point clouds.? Essentially 3-D models of a site, they provide pinpoint accuracy when looking for engineering defects in buildings.

This objective analysis helps inform design decisions that can lead to safer homes and more durable infrastructure.

?We want to make better-engineered buildings,? said Wood, summing up his team?s driving force. ?We want to improve the safety of communities, improve resilience following disasters, and save lives.?

Watch the one-minute video above to learn more about their globe-spanning work.

By John Tolley