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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information

Bella Nguyen, former PhD student at the Laing O’Rourke Centre (LOR Centre) for Construction Information Technology (CIT) Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, and Ioannis Brilakis, CSIC Investigator and Reader at the LOR Centre, have been presented the prestigious 2018 John O. Bickel Award at the Construction Research Congress in New Orleans.


Image: Bella Nguyen and Ioannis Brilakis (centre) receive the John O.Bickel Award from Marwa Hassan, Construction Research Congress (CRC) 2018 President, and Charles W. Berryman, CRC 2018 Conference Chair.

Bella, who is the lead author on the paper titled ‘Optimised parameters for over-height vehicle detection under variable weather conditions’, which was co-authored with Dr Brilakis, who supervised Bella’s PhD, delivered a keynote presentation on her role in the development of the autonomous vision-based bridge and tunnel strike prevention system at the event, which took place earlier this month (April).

The autonomous vehicle detection system project created, tested and deployed an over-height system for the prevention of bridge and tunnel strikes using a vision-based approach. Jointly funded by Transport for London and CSIC, the project resulted in a high-accuracy system that cost an order of magnitude less than the current state of practice.

On receiving the award Bella said: "I am extremely honoured to win this award. For me, the important aspect is for the research to gain traction and the award certainly helps to highlight my work. Bridge strikes are a problem faced by asset owners worldwide and I receive emails from bridge owners on a weekly basis asking whether the system is available for purchase. I hope to explore commercial options as there is a clear need to turn this research into a product for end-users."

Dr Brilakis said: “This is what engineering is about; starting from a real problem that industry brings to us, and finding a clever and simultaneously practical solution that can be deployed widely and effectively.”

Bella joined Arup as a Senior Research Consultant in the Foresight, Research and Innovation Team in September 2017. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge in the Laing O'Rourke Centre for Construction and Engineering Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology in the Intelligent Vision and Automation Lab (as a visiting scholar). She was the recipient of the Cambridge Overseas Trust Scholarship. In 2017 and 2016, Bella was awarded the LC3 Construction Innovation Award and Fiatech (CETI) award for her work on vision-based systems for bridge and tunnel strike prevention.

The winning paper, which was selected by the Construction Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, was published in the September 2017 issue of ASCE Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering.