Modeling a City

Pegasus Global Holdings is planning to build a full-scale city somewhere in New Mexico "to test and evaluate technologies in conditions that most closely simulate real-world applications." According to the project's website, CITE-CITY, the company proposed building the model to overcome challenges related to access, long waits, and costs that they faced in carrying out testing of technologies in actual cities. Last August, Pegasus Global signed a  Memorandum of Understanding with the New Mexico Economic Development Department in which they indicated the model will be built with private funds and create 350 new jobs. The company and State of New Mexico hope to draw vendors, investors, partners, and users from six specific areas of interest: Energy, transmission systems, transport, economic development, resource development, and security.

The company planned to break ground by this summer, but based on a recent article in myDesert.com, the project has been placed on hold due to land acquisition issues. However, it appears development plans for the model community will continue while the company searches for a new location. 

The Frontier Project in Second Life

The use of full-scale models for training and simulation is not a new idea. Many police and fire departments use existing structures for training. And the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) provides emergency response training at Disaster City – a 52-acre full scale "mock community." But not everyone chooses to model cities in the physical world. Increased computing capabilities offer a more efficient and low cost method to run simulations and training. A couple years ago, IBM launched CityOne – an online game people can play to explore how technology can impact cities. And over the last several years, Crista Lopes has been involved in some amazing work involving simulations in a virtual setting. One of her blog posts, Simulating a City, describes a traffic simulation/visualization project she has been working on. There are also many other examples of virtual simulations throughout Second Life and other 3D immersive worlds. The image in this post is a photo of a simulation of a stormwater collection and groundwater recharge facility that was built in Second Life.

Because of the tremendous cost of building physical models (in the case of the Pegasus Global project costs have been reported anywhere from $200 million to $1 billion) it would be interesting to see a study comparing the benefits, costs, and effectiveness of both physical and virtual simulations. And based on that type of study, a guideline could be developed to assist people in choosing the best, most economical, and efficient model for their purpose.

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Business Sim Released by Public Works Group

Public Works Group Business Sim

 

Over the last year or so I've worked on creating a 3D environment as a representation of the ADA Toolkit for Local Government. Last December I submitted the build in the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge. The winners were just announced this week, and my entry was not one of the finalists so I began the process of taking down the build so I can work on something else. But before I secured my demolition permit and completely cleared the site, I removed the ADA-related materials so only the buildings and landscaping remained. Then I saved it as an OAR file. Those of you who work in the Opensimulator environment are probably familiar with this file format. I am offering the build as a download for anyone who might need a build to support a business or e-learning use or anything else you can think of. Here are the main highlights in the build:

  • Main Landing/Welcome area
  • Three forest/park areas
  • Roads through business area
  • Hedge Maze
  • Four commercial buildings, one with a parking lot

Most of the content and images were created by me. However, I have incorporated a few items from Linda KellieNebadon IzumiVanish Seriath and possibly a few other people. All of the items used that were created by others were released for use under an OpenSource or Creative Commons license that would allow me to release them for free under a similar license through this build (any original notecards regarding the licenses can be found in the objects created by others). So have fun, and I hope the build proves useful for others. 

 

Click to start download: PUBLIC WORKS GROUP BUSINESS SIM OAR FILE

This file is released under a Creative Commons, noncommercial, share-alike, attribution license (basically meaning that you just can't sell any of the build or repackage it under your own name or brand – you don't have to attribute to me or the Public Works Group if you use the build.)

 

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A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 66

Day 66

Culvert Lining Project

It looks like our issue with the culvert lining project has been resolved. We gave the structural drawings from our consultant to the contractor. Theh contractor ended up getting a couple prices from other concrete contractors which were lower than the original subcontractor's price. So it looks like we will end up getting the work we needed done at the price that was bid. It rained today so the contractor did not work, but he should be back out tomorrow to form the head walls.

Road Project

We've started on the plans for next year's road project. Today, I worked on adding a few more roads, My supervisor had said we could try increasing the amount we normally spend since we are not keeping up with the failure rate. Of course, all this will be subject to the approval of the council. We are just going to suggest this amount. We did get a little extra in MFT funds this year so that amount could be applied to this project.

The PACE sidewalk project

Today I tried to get a copy of the bid tab for the PACE project I discussed yesterday. The person I emailed said I had to submit a FOIA request to get it and that I had to ask how to do this by emailing their law department. Well, we have been through the FOIA drill here, and from we've been told, someone can ask for something on a dirty napkin, and that is an acceptable request to which you must respond. We can no longer require anyone to go through a formal process to get something. So because I did not hear back from the law department, I tried emailing their FOIA officer directly. He read the email but did not respond, so I'll have to see if they end up sending it or not. We did ask a local contractor who bids that type of work if they put in a bid, and they had not even been aware the project was out to bid.

Water Main Project

I met with the property owner of one of the parcels where we are asking for an easement for our water main. They said we could go ahead and submit the documents for their signature. I also worked a little more on the modeling but realized I needed the pump curve for our high service pumps at the water plant. So I arranged to have them sent over.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to be out of the office so won't be writing "A Day in the Life.." post for Friday.

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A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 64

Day 64

Culvert Lining Project

Today was somewhat of a continuation of the issues that started yesterday with our culvert project. Tomorrow I am meeting with the contractor and giving him the detailed structural design that we received today from our consultant. The contractor will have to determine if the work shown was what he anticipated when he bid the job. If not, he will tell us how much more he would charge us. Then if this is the case, we will need to review the increased amount and decide if we think that is a correct value. If not, and if we cannot reach an agreement, we will have to remove the concrete work from the contract. 

This is a good lesson in why it is so important to have a lot of detail in the plans. A misinterpretation of the plans by the contractor or a difference in interpretation from what was expected by the engineer can lead to problems like this during construction. It can also lead to higher bid prices if there had been some uncertaintly on the contractor's part about the work when he was determining his bid. It's frustrating for us because we are managing the construction, but had to rely on another engineer for the design and the plans. And I realize it's frustrating for the contractor. Now we have a real chance of having to delete the work from the contract because the plans/specs seemed to have caused a difference of opinion over what the work entailed, and we are not sure if we can come to some agreement on the cost.

Water modeling

I have been working on the design of a water main extension. Today I contacted one of the owners of a parcel over which we are asking for an easement. We arranged to meet later this week to look over the area. I also started working on running an analysis of the water system with this line in place so I can finish filling out the IEPA permit. Fortunately a model was built several years ago when the city built a new water treatment plant. And the consultant who built that shared the information with us. It was built with EPANET so I downloaded the program. In the past I've used a DOS -based program and WaterGems, but since the data is in the EPANET format, I will just try to figure  that software.

Miscellaneous & NaNoWriMo

We also drove a few more roads to determine their condition. Then at the end of the day, I attended an APWA education committee meeting. Today was also the beginning of NaNoWriMo. It's not really an engineering event, but I've always enjoyed writing so have tried to participate most years. And it's a great incentive for working on writing skills. I encourage anyone interested in writing to check it out!

NaNoWriMo Participant

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