NSF funds planning for earthquake engineering simulation lab

September 04, 2000

Partnership awarded grant for design of network for earthquake engineering simulation

The National Science Foundation announced today that it awarded the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) $300,000 to lead a national partnership of research centers in planning and designing the NEESgrid, a national virtual laboratory for earthquake engineering. This "scoping study" funding which is a part of the NSF's Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) project, could lead to a $10 million grant for the integration and building of the NEESgrid.

Joining NCSA in leading the development of the NEESgrid are the mathematics and computer science division at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory; the Collaboratory for Research on Electronic Work at the University of Michigan; the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California (USC); the Mid-America Earthquake Center at UIUC; and UIUC and USC's civil engineering departments. Argonne's material science division and the National Laboratory for Applied Network Research will also contribute to the NEESgrid efforts.

"The NEES vision is to improve the seismic design of buildings, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure in the United States," said Priscilla Nelson, NSF division director for civil and mechanical systems. "The payoff will be reducing the impacts of earthquakes, potentially saving money and lives."

The NEESgrid will be built on proven, existing grid technologies like the Globus toolkit developed by Argonne and USC, and it will allow researchers to seamlessly share experimental equipment, computational resources, and data. It will serve three communities within earthquake engineering: structural engineeering, concerning the impact of seismic activity on buildings, bridges, and the like; tsunami research, concerning the formation and effects of tsunamis; and geotechnical engineering, concerning the interactions of seismic activity with subsurface soil and rock and with foundations and infrastructures.

One of the beauties of the NEESgrid will be its power as a "teleobservation" and "teleoperation" tool. In other words, researchers will be able to control experimental tools‹a seismograph, camera, or even a robot‹at remote sites from their desktop workstation. They will also have real-time, remote access to the information generated by those tools. This information could include instrument data, as well as video and audio feeds.

"Many in the NEES team already have extensive experience in using observational tools from remote sites. Telemicroscopy and the remote management of radio telescopes have both really taken off already, thanks in part to research done at sites that are now a part of the NEESgrid efforts," said Dan Reed, director of NCSA and the National Computational Science Alliance. "There's no better way for us to have an impact than to deploy what we've built and apply what we've learned to a new field of study. This project gives us an excellent opportunity to do that."

The NEESgrid's capabilities will also extend to those of a more traditional computational grid, linking supercomputers and high-end computing clusters, storage facilities, software repositories, and databases. The NEESgrid will exploit supercomputing and storage resources at NCSA, as well as other existing pieces of grid infrastructure at other team sites. This modular setup will provide a highly extensible and flexible computing environment. It will also allow for the rapid development of new software, services, and computational and experimental tools.

"We are delighted to be part of an effort that will help protect human life and property as well as deepen theoretical understanding of the effects of earthquakes," said ISI Executive Director Herbert Schorr.
The National Computational Science Alliance is a partnership to prototype an advanced computational infrastructure for the 21st century and includes more than 50 academic, government and industry research partners from across the United States. The Alliance is one of two partnerships funded by the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program, and receives cost-sharing at partner institutions. NSF also supports the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is the leading-edge site for the National Computational Science Alliance. NCSA is a leader in the development and deployment of cutting-edge high-performance computing, networking, and information technologies. The National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, industrial partners, and other federal agencies fund NCSA.

University of Southern California

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