EDA awards $425,000 grant to Rowan Engineering for work in Camden and Vineland

EDA awards $425,000 grant to Rowan Engineering for work in Camden and Vineland

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The United States Economic Development Administration has awarded a $424,962 grant to the Rowan University College of Engineering to support its 3-D virtual reality work on the effects and mitigation of natural disasters in urban settings.
The United States Economic Development Administration has awarded a $424,962 grant to the Rowan University College of Engineering to support its 3-D virtual reality work on the effects and mitigation of natural disasters in urban settings.

Specifically, Rowan teams will use the grant to address flooding conditions in the cities of Camden and Vineland in a project titled “Application of a 3-D Virtual Reality Tool for Community Planning and Economic Development: Simulating Flooding and Remediation in Southern New Jersey Communities.”
 
Dr. Shreekanth Mandayam, chair of Rowan’s Electrical & Computer Engineering program, and Dr. Yusuf Mehta, an associate professor in the Civil & Environmental Engineering program, are overseeing the project.

Teams of undergraduate and graduate students will work with the professors using Rowan Engineering’s state-of-the art virtual reality system — the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment, known as a CAVE® — to model flooding and remediation in the towns. The CAVE, housed at the South Jersey Technology Park in Mantua Township, is a 100-cubic-foot, fully immersive, navigable and interactive virtual reality system in which Rowan Engineering teams also have conducted research for the United States Navy and NASA.

Teams have been working with Mandayam and Mehta for almost two years on a similar project for the City of Camden, “Development of a Virtual Reality Simulation of the Flooding Characteristics for the Cramer Hill Neighborhood in the City of Camden.” The team started the work in March 2009 to address storm water management concerns in a 50-block area in Cramer Hill where massive flooding and other problems occur during bad weather.

The EDA grant will in part to fund the original work, which is being conducted in conjunction with the Camden-based Cooper’s Ferry Development Association and the Cramer Hill Community Development Corporation to assist the neighborhood with planning the creation of open space and residential development along the back channel of the Delaware River.

Mandayam, Mehta and their students also will use the latest funding to expand the pilot project in Camden to others areas of that city and to Vineland.

According to the professors, infrastructure concerns in both cities and elsewhere in South Jersey contribute to flooding, and that flooding often is an impediment to redevelopment and economic growth.

“We will use the CAVE to identify the infrastructure problems in these communities and use virtual reality technology to model the areas,” Mandayam said. “We will then use the models to analyze the existing problems and test possible solutions to remedy them.”

The team also will use the EDA funding to continue to develop the application of the technology to urban infrastructure problems in general. “We believe there is great potential to transfer the CAVE virtual reality technology from the laboratory to the private marketplace,” Mehta said.

Virtual reality, he explained, is an immense asset for this kind of work in that it enables the researchers to test various scenarios in a relatively cost-effective and efficient manner.

“And added benefit,” Mandayam said, “is that this research – really at the cutting edge — prepares our students to pursue careers in this type of technology and to explore developing their own startup companies after graduation or even earlier.  We have many students with an entrepreneurial inclination who we try to encourage. Projects like this do that. It’s so critical to keep our graduates in New Jersey, focusing on technology and starting their own businesses. We hope the virtual reality lab and projects like these will spin off into new businesses that help develop our economy.”
 

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