NSF awards ISTVS member Prof. James Hambleton Faculty Early Career Development Program award

The U.S. National Science Foundation The grant funds 500,000 USD for a 5-year activity period, from March 2019 to February 2024, within the scope of NSF’s Engineering for Civil Infrastructure program, titled “Modeling Soil-Machine Interaction for Advances in Civil Construction and Terrestrial Robotics.”

The main goal is to move forward the conception of agricultural, mining, and civil construction machines — currently still designed primarily via trial-and-error — by expanding the fundamental knowledge of how soils respond under different loading conditions. In fact, existing techniques for simulation and design typically refer to devices operating on hard surfaces, lacking methods to predict how machines operate on deformable terrain.

The project will integrate experiments and theory based on fundamental soil mechanics to obtain models for predicting the evolution of forces and reactions as machines induce large, permanent (plastic) deformations into the soil. Significant novelty lies in the complete experimental characterization of force-displacement histories and deformation fields over a wide range of possible motions, considering two fundamental soil types and using the 6-axis robotic arm in the Soil-Machine Interaction Laboratory at Northwestern University for actuation. To overcome the high computational demands of existing numerical methods, the project will formulate an efficient simulation technique based on the Sequential Kinematic Method.

The broader impacts of this project are expected to shape an emerging, interdisciplinary field by stimulating technological advances in the devices used for construction, mining, agriculture, and mobility. Moreover, through integrated educational aims, the project will also attract, excite and educate a diverse group of future civil engineers through inclusive outreach and educational activities.

» NSF program details
» NSF project award details

ISTVS congratulates Professor Hambleton on this recognition.