Computer Science Research May Help Cities Bounce Back Quicker From Disaster

Okanagan College Computer Science faculty and students have partnered with a renowned 3D modeling expert on an international research project aimed at simplifying the way buildings are assessed and repaired after natural disasters.

Dr. Kenichi Sugihara is a professor of Information Science at Gifu Keizai University in Japan who specializes in Computer Graphics (CG) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). His current research finds him blending both disciplines by exploring how cutting-edge algorithms can automatically generate 3D urban models.

Enter Dr. Youry Khmelevsky, Chair of the Computer Science program at Okanagan College, who is helping Sugihara refine his working model of a program specifically tailored to evaluate roof damage in buildings using 3D simulations.

“Current 3D building models for construction take a lot of time to produce,” says Sugihara. “New technology and programming techniques are simplifying the process, making it much more efficient.”

Sugihara and Khmelevsky’s project is focused on applying 3D modeling to areas beyond the traditional applications of planning and construction – such as translating satellite images into models which civil engineers can then use to assess damage and re-build after natural disasters like floods or wildfires.

“This project may help city planners and insurance companies assess damage quicker,” explains Khmelevsky.

The six-month project was recently awarded a $25,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Engage grant. Esri Canada, a Canadian distributor of GIS software, is providing in-kind support to match the grant and is also working with the College to explore new ways of teaching GIS – a field in need of skilled workers in the province – both in the classroom and in the field.

“Esri Canada is excited to be working with Dr. Khmelevsky and Dr. Sugihara on an innovative approach to roof geometry modelling that holds promise for multiple application uses in 3D building models,” says Dr. Brent Hall, Director of Education and Research at Esri Canada. “We’re also particularly pleased to be able to support GIS use in instruction and research at Okanagan College.”

Two Okanagan College students will play key roles in completing the 3D modeling project over the next six months.

Second-year Bachelor of Computer Information Systems (BCIS) students Matt Cocar and Marty Wallace came on board in March and had a chance to meet with Sugihara when he visited the College and spoke in Kelowna about his research.

“It was incredible to have the opportunity to spend a few days with Dr. Sugihara,” says Cocar. “He showed us some brilliant, complicated algorithms that we’re now working with and learning more about as we go.”

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” says Wallace. “This research has definitely opened my eyes to a new path in computer science.”

Cocar and Wallace are already hard at work on the project. Both students started part-time in March. Cocar will continue part-time, while Wallace will ramp up to full-time over the summer.

Original content from: Okanagan College

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