Virtually Improving Emergency Response Training with NSF Award

Eric Jing Du, Ph.D., associate professor of civil engineering in the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment (ESSIE), along with colleagues from Texas A&M University and Virginia Tech, has been awarded a $999,327 grant by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator (C-Accel) effort to develop a mixed reality-enabled training system to bring the latest robot technologies to emergency response.

Throughout the years, emergency response training has been challenged by the lack of technology adoption and funding. This multi-university project will focus on training first responders to work with future augmentation technologies, such as robots, exoskeletons and augmented reality.

Dr. Du will be leading the development of the virtual reality platform, since it coincides with his other projects that focus on virtual reality.

“We will be simulating a large scale, multi-hazard disaster, where different units of emergency responders will have to work together to tackle complex and dangerous situations,” Dr. Du said. “To overcome cognitive and physical limitations of first responders, the simulated tasks require a seamless collaboration between humans and robots, as well as intuitive information visualization tech.”

By the end of the project, Dr. Du and colleagues hope to gain a better understanding in solving technology requirements and training needs for emergency response professionals. They plan to formulate a training protocol for professionals to master these technologies.

The NSF Convergence Accelerator effort is awarded to create partnerships between academic and non-academic entities to solve problems throughout the nation. For more information on the C-Accel effort, visit