Carnegie Mellon University

Collage of photos showing workshop attendees and speakers

April 11, 2024

2024 Workshop: Revolutionizing Engineering with AI and Digital Twins

How are AI and digital twins transforming infrastructure? What education and skills do we need to implement them in our businesses? What are the opportunities and challenges to adoption?

These were some of the questions explored at the civil and environmental engineering (CEE) department’s first annual Spring Industry Workshop on AI & Digital Twins: The Future of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Over 50 industry leaders, experts, and academics gathered on campus and virtually to discuss the transformative power of AI and digital twin technologies in their field. 

“We’re currently in the new wave of AI where algorithms are no longer just processing data, but also contextualizing it to help us predict the future, ” said CEE department head and Paul Christiano University professor Burcu Akinci during her introductory remarks. “This is great for us as civil and environmental engineers because every building and bridge is different, so learning from one infrastructure and applying it to the next can be challenging. Digital twins enable AI algorithms to have robust analysis capabilities tailored for each infrastructure system. At the same time, AI algorithms enable digital twins to be up-to-date and provide insights to be used to effectively control the built environment.”

The day-long event kicked off with keynote speaker Atul Khanzode, chief technology officer at DPR Construction, sharing insights on the company’s early adoption of a digital twin platform in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. Participants from over 29 unique organizations then heard from Head of Innovation Lab at Oracle, Burcin Kaplanoglu, who shed light on the transformative potential of AI-driven automation in reshaping the built environment. The final keynote speaker, Chris McComb, associate professor of mechanical engineering, presented findings from his research on human relationships with AI as a tool and as a collaborator. 

Engaging panel discussions delved deeper into the intricacies of AI and digital twin implementations, exploring the state of the art, opportunities, challenges, and the crucial enablers and barriers shaping the landscape. Panelists included Mario Berges, professor at CEE, Jessica Chambers, vice president of engineering and design technologies at Michael Baker International, and Sean Qian, professor at CEE. 

The second panel, titled "Empowering the Future: Addressing Skills Gaps, Education, and Business Cases for AI & Digital Twin Technologies," offered a glimpse into the future workforce and the pivotal role of education in preparing the next generation of engineers for the challenges ahead.

Pingbo Tang, associate professor at CEE; Katherine Flanigan, assistant professor at CEE; Frank Frisby, CEE alumni and technology enthusiast; and Ohan Oumoudian, technical architect at Gannett Fleming spoke about designing relevant educational programs and fostering a culture of innovation to support the integration of AI and digital twins into engineering curricula and professional practice. Opportunities like CEE’s AI Engineering online certificate program, designed to teach industry professionals how to bring these cutting-edge technologies back to their organizations, are imperative for engineers to stay ahead in a fast-moving field. 

poster-session.pngThe inaugural event concluded with CEE PhD student presentations and a networking happy hour. 

“The knowledge gained from these conversations between industry and academia experts are essential in advancing our understanding of these state-of-the-art technologies and in forging the future of our field,” said Akinci.