North Suffolk projects finalists in awards

Published 10:33 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Saikou Diallo and Jose Padilla are part of an ODU team developing modeling and simulation software for public policy decision makers. The project is among three North Suffolk-based projects named as finalists in a prestigious technology award.

North Suffolk can lay claim to three finalists in the 2012 Governor’s Technology Awards, which recognizes the success of public sector technology projects.

In one of the trio of projects, a team of researchers at Old Dominion University’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, on University Boulevard, is developing a simulation and modeling tool for public policy planning.

“What we’re trying to address here is the difficulty, usually in urban planning roles, in the amount of information that you have to deal with,” said Dr. Saikou Diallo, a research assistant at the center.

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A handful of master’s and doctoral students are working on the project inspired by an ODU initiative to study the effects of sea level rise on Hampton Roads, he said.

Hampton Roads is one of America’s most threatened regions for sea level rise, experts say, with studies suggesting most of its land is less than 15 feet above the shoreline.

The combination of rising sea levels and continental plate sink could mean a relative sea level rise of 1 ½ to two feet in the next 100 years, studies predict.

“The original idea was to look at, in the next 20 to 30 years, if sea levels continue to rise, what do we need to decide to protect land? What areas do you need to invest in?” Diallo said.

“If we put a dam there, or raise the street there, what would happen to the overall area?”

The project’s next step is to partner with a city on a trial implementation of the system, he said.

“In term of the decision makers, what we will do is focused on emergency planning,” he said.

“That’s really where we’re trying to go with it. How do you come in and restore power … what should come first, things like that.”

ODU has funded the project initially, but Diallo said that other funding options are being explored for the next phase.

The military has similar simulation and modeling programs, and the University of Michigan is working on an economic forecasting tool with similarities to the ODU project, Diallo said.

But he said that the Continuously Running Simulation Environment, as the project has been dubbed, is “more planning-based.”

It takes into account “everything from the transport network to the power grid … everything that is considered infrastructure is modeled.”

In the other two North Suffolk finalists, the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center is partnering with Englewood Hospital in New Jersey on a medical simulation training tool, and the Joint and Coalition Warfighting Environment Development Organ-ization is developing a new simulated training system for military personnel entering conflict zones.

JWC’s project approaches training from “the command and control architecture,” resulting in fewer simulation operators and cost savings, the project description says.

According to its description, the third North Suffolk project is designed to train physicians to practice “patient blood management” to reduce or eliminate the need for blood transfusions.

Award winners will be announced at the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovative Symposium on Sept. 6.