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Pitt Engineer lauds successful international conference on structural health monitoring

After Years of Covid Delays, the European Workshop on Structural Health Monitoring, co-chaired by Pitt’s Piervincenzo Rizzo, Finally Takes Place in Palermo, Italy

More than 600 researchers from around the world gathered in Palermo, Italy, for the 10th European Workshop on Structural Health Monitoring (EWSHM2022) to exchange ideas in the field of structural health monitoring, nondestructive evaluation, and sensing technologies.  

The four-day conference, originally scheduled for July 2020, finally commenced on July 4, 2022, at the University of Palermo on the island of Sicily. Despite the two years of Covid-related delays and ongoing travel restrictions, the conference welcomed over 600 researchers from all around the world, doubling the attendance of the previous EWSHM conference in 2018. 

“This conference presents an excellent opportunity to share ideas, to see what other people have done, and to be inspired by other peoples’ work in nondestructive evaluation,” said Piervincenzo Rizzo, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, who organized the conference. “I was so happy that so many researchers were able to make their way to Palermo to learn from each other and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.”

Structural monitoring through noninvasive approaches is akin to using ultrasounds and wearable technologies to monitor human health: By using technology to monitor structures permanently and look for hidden defects, it’s much more likely to catch a problem early, before it causes irreparable harm.

Rizzo has been working in this field for over 20 years, researching technologies that can detect defects in structures—like buildings, airplanes, bridges or rails—as early as possible. Though it’s an important field, it is a relatively small one—making conferences like the EWSHM even more important in advancing the work and inspiring new ideas within the community.

Over the course of four days, around 450 presentations took place in nine parallel sessions, covering a wide range of topics across this niche area of research. Attendees could learn from wide-ranging sessions, including innovative ideas for monitoring vibrations, machine learning and modeling in structural health monitoring, structural health monitoring for wind turbine technology, and energy harvesting for structural health monitoring of railway bridges.

“Despite two-and-a-half years of Covid, people have taken large strides forward in their work,” noted Rizzo. “I could see significant improvements in technology despite remote work and students supervised over Zoom/Teams/Skype. The world of science has continued moving forward despite Covid’s slowdowns.” 

Planning the conference was a challenge, but one that Rizzo is proud to have faced. He notes that the most daunting task was perhaps making the decision to delay the July 2020 conference for two years.

“Our conference was among the first to be postponed due to the pandemic, and my co-chair Alberto Milazzo and I decided to postpone for two years, even though many thought we should just postpone it until the fall,” said Rizzo. “I’m proud that we stood fast in our decision and were able to provide an excellent experience for all the attendees.” 

Three volumes containing the conference proceedings will be published and available so that the conversation can continue.