With funding from the URI Water Resources Center, Bradshaw and his students conducted a series of tests at the 3,000-foot-long, 109-foot-high dam, which parallels Scituate Avenue (Route 12) in Scituate and is operated and maintained by the Providence Water Supply Board. Their analysis thus far suggests that the 88-year-old dam could withstand, with minimal damage, the region’s most likely earthquake scenarios, which include a magnitude 5 earthquake nearby the dam and a magnitude 6.8 earthquake 125 kilometers away.
“Back when it was built, engineers may not have had the technology we have now, but they certainly had the knowledge and the quality of workmanship, and we’re seeing their impressive structures,” Bradshaw said.
The URI professor’s study was the first time the Gainer Dam had been evaluated for its resilience to earthquakes. When Bradshaw and graduate students Christopher Norton of West Haven, Conn., and Bivian Reyes of the Dominican Republic approached the agency about conducting the study, officials saw it as a rare opportunity.
“Looking at what’s downstream and the significance of this dam, we thought it would be prudent for Dr. Bradshaw and his students to conduct their analysis,” said Peter LePage, senior manager of engineering at the Providence Water Supply Board.
Agency officials and Bradshaw’s team were especially concerned about the potential for liquefaction in the soils comprising the dam. The shaking from an earthquake can cause loose saturated sands to lose their strength. This scenario could cause the dam to breach.
Bradshaw and his students could not easily bore into the dam to check the density of the soil. Instead, they turned to Gopu Potty, URI associate research professor of ocean engineering, who had perfected a system of using ground sensors called geophones and a heavy weight to eliminate the need for soil samples. By setting up the geophones and striking the ground with a 100-pound weight, they could monitor the vibrations traveling through the earth to analyze the soil conditions.
Bradshaw said the method holds promise for dam owners to screen for possible problems and learn if further soil testing and analyses are needed. The geophones and computer analysis are less intrusive and disruptive to the dam.
“You can think of it as a good first step,” Bradshaw said. “If the results look good, we may not need to do more.”
The research will serve as a blueprint for future studies at the Gainer Memorial Dam, as well as at least one doctoral thesis at URI.]]>
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Also participating was mechanical engineering Professor Bahram Nassersharif. He too had been challenged by the president and was happy to comply.
The professor and the deans challenged Provost Donald DeHayes and his staff to take part as well.
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Amtrol, West Warwick, RI.
Amgen, West Greenwich, RI
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Rogers Corporation, Rogers, CT
Slater Mill, Pawtucket, RI
Staples fulfillment center, Putnam, CT
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Mechanical engineering student Mike Pinto combines his passion for planes with cutting-edge research in composite materials that will allow the next generation of aircraft to travel farther on less fuel.
Mike Pinto grew up making model airplanes with his brothers. Years later, he’s studying composite materials at the University of Rhode Island in hopes of parlaying the innovative research into a new generation of real aircraft.
The mechanical engineering Ph.D. student from Milford, Mass. is exploring composite materials under extreme environments using equipment and expertise unavailable anywhere else. Cameras here can record explosions at hundreds of thousands of frames per second, allowing researchers to see a literal blow-by-blow replay of a blast and its impact on a composite material. A 2,000-gallon pressure vessel provides the opportunity to study real underwater explosions rather than merely simulate them.
“There’s nowhere else in the country where I can do this type of research right now,” Pinto, 23, says.
For companies like Boeing, the research is crucial to their future. Boeing’s latest plane, the 777 Dreamliner, relies on lightweight composite materials for most of its body. Rival Airbus’s A350 XWB also extensively depends on composites. Both aircraft makers hope to improve quality and save airlines money by building planes that are lighter and fly father on less fuel.
Pinto wants to be part of the team that develops the next generation of aircraft that depend on composite materials. To get there, Pinto is looking not at the sky but deep underwater.
Using the College of Engineering’s pressure vessel, Pinto spends his days creating underwater explosions and implosions, essentially the opposite of an explosion. The work offers unique insights into how materials hold up under extreme environments. The knowledge is transferable to planes flying high above the ground that also face high pressures and extreme forces. Plus, Pinto says it’s fun work that offers a chance to break ground.
“There’s so much that can be done with composites,” he says. “Most of the work that’s been done in industry has been trial and error. That doesn’t lead to good design processes.”
Pinto arrived at the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. At UMass, he studied under Vijaya Chalivendra, a former student of URI mechanical engineering Professor Arun Shukla, Pinto’s doctoral adviser.
Pinto says at URI he’s been blown away by the access to the pressure vessel, super high-speed cameras and Shukla’s decades of expertise. The son of two schoolteachers, Pinto says his time in Kingston fulfils his passion to leverage math and physics to solve problems.
He’s also sought to solve problems outside of the classroom. Through a local martial arts school, Pinto raised money to provide breakfast to low-income children in Rhode Island. His troupe routinely performs demonstrations at fundraisers and Pinto is always encouraging donations for local food banks.
On a lighter note, he’s taken up cooking and on a quest for the perfect scone.
Why do it all?
“The more challenging the project, the better,” Pinto says.]]>