As infrastructure ages, the engineers who initially designed and had first-hand knowledge of those structures eventually exit the workforce. Further, engineering programs, research, and associated coursework move forward and evolve over time. These advances in education are essential to progress with new designs and new materials. However, the vast majority of our infrastructure comprises structures built with materials, design philosophies, and construction practices that are no longer discussed in the classroom. The average age of a steel bridge in Indiana is about 50 years, and similar statistics are found throughout the United States. Most of the major river crossings are steel structures that are approaching or have exceeded their design lives. A quick review of the bridges crossing the Ohio, Hudson, and Mississippi Rivers provides stark reminders of the age of our infrastructure. Clearly, a well-rounded workforce is made up of engineers prepared to design the structures of the future working hand-in-hand with engineers prepared to maintain the structures of the past. To successfully maintain the existing bridge inventory, expertise is needed in the areas of deterioration, fatigue, fracture, corrosion, repair/retrofit, coatings, materials, non-destructive evaluation, riveting, welding, and fabrication. Using Purdue's existing strengths in education and research, the Steel Bridge Research, Inspection, Training, and Engineering (S-BRITE) Center engages faculty within and beyond the College of Engineering to explore partnership opportunities in training and research and fills a growing need in the transportation industry.
Additional information about the S-BRITE Center is available at https://engineering.purdue.edu/CAI/SBRITE.