Tech Blitz Teams Innovate with Safety in Mind

A group of CEE students toured the Norfolk Southern headquarters under construction in Atlanta as part of the fifth annual Tech Blitz.

At the fifth annual Tech Blitz, teams were challenged to think outside the box and use technology to create innovative solutions for improving safety on construction sites.  

Tech Blitz is an all-day hackathon created by the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering to focus on pushing the technological boundaries of the construction industry. The event pairs Tech students with industry professionals to work together to create solutions to challenges based on high-profile projects under construction in the Atlanta area.

This year’s event, which took place on Oct. 1, challenged the participants to utilize laser scanning to improve safety performance on a construction site, while simultaneously considering safety modifications that could be implemented in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The selected site was the new headquarters of railroad company Norfolk Southern. Before the Tech Blitz challenge, a group of students from the School’s Construction and Infrastructure Engineering (CISE) group had the opportunity to tour the Norfolk Southern campus, which is under construction just down the street from Georgia Tech’s campus in midtown Atlanta.

At the Tech Blitz Kickoff, the competition’s four judges provided information about the site and spoke about their areas of expertise to provide context for the challenge.

Wai Wong, assistant vice president of human resources at Norfolk Southern, gave a presentation about the design of the company’s new headquarters. The campus features low rise buildings that emphasize collaborative spaces and outdoor areas.

Holder Construction Company Superintendent Dan Simpson shared some of the challenges encountered on site, including multiple other buildings under construction in the area and an aggressive construction schedule.

Two faculty members from the CISE group told the teams of students and industry professionals about their research, which incorporates technology and construction.

Professor James Tsai spoke about using Lidar (which stands for laser imaging, detecting and ranging) for automated roadway health and safety condition assessment. Professor Yong Cho told the group about his work using robotics to improve safety and productivity in construction.

Armed with information and inspiration from the presentations, the teams split up and spent the day brainstorming and preparing a concept to present before the panel of judges at the end of the day.

Students from the winning team working on their
Tech Blitz concept.

The winning team was comprised of Georgia Tech students Vishal Reddy Maligireddy, Rajat Mohan, Tejas Talekar, and Athena Verghis along with Curtis Brundidge of Innovative Construction Partners, MariaJose Ferreyros from PLW Waterworks, Tamera Flowers of Tensar, and Chirag Venkatesan from H.J. Russell & Company.

The team presented a solution that included a combination of drones, ground laser scanners, and robots to collect real-time site data for analysis and decision making.

The group developed a framework in which a combination of technologies can interact in order to create a real-time representation of the construction site. The technologies include a robot, dust densification system, tower laser scanners and a drone.

The team also envisioned a smart phone app they named “BeeSafe,” which would provide a user interface to allow decision-makers to view and analyze the site data generated by these scanning technologies. 

“The winning team did a great job of thinking outside the box to create a solution that incorporated different technologies to perform real-time safety assessments of the construction site,” said Professor of the Practice Eric Marks, who coordinated the Tech Blitz event.