Wichita State team will help Kansas communities deal with natural disasters


An interdisciplinary team from Wichita State University will participate in a $24 million state initiative to help rural and urban communities prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

Wichita State is one of 17 Kansas universities and colleges participating in the Adaptive and Resilient Infrastructures driven by Social Equity (ARISE) project, funded by the National Science Foundation and the state of Kansas. The Wichita State team will lead power-system work and capital-asset management to address resilience and infrastructure responses to disaster and extreme weather events.

Kansas currently ranks ninth in federal disaster declarations per capita, according to the Kansas National Science Foundation Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Amid changing climate patterns and frequent extreme weather events, historically underserved communities often receive less aid and recover slower from weather disasters.

The research team at Wichita State comprises social sciences, electrical engineering and computer science. It will focus on understanding the societal influences on engineering solutions and developing socially equitable solutions to improve resiliency of interdependent systems such as electric grid, transportation and water. It will support the development of a decision-making tool by using artificial intelligence and an interdisciplinary data science consortium.

“This multi-university collocation with government, industries and communities provides a unique opportunity to the team to impact the disaster resilience, for example, minimizing rolling electric outages due 2021 polar vortex,” said Dr. Visvakumar Aravinthan, associate professor in the College of Engineering.

Aravinthan, Xiaoheng Wang, assistant professor in the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs; Hongsheng He, assistant professor in the College of Engineering; and Gergely Zarbua, professor in the College of Engineering will collaborate on the project.

Business leaders, emergency planners, health professionals, community-based organizations and other stakeholders will work with the universities and colleges, which include the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

The research agenda is supported by an education program that includes creating an interdisciplinary data-science curriculum, which connects students from 11 institutions to community organizations through a new Kansas Data Science Consortium.

In addition, ARISE also supports summer research experiences, partnerships with museums and libraries to engage youth and family in science, and workforce development programs for municipal planners and utility operators.

The project will propel researchers and educators to the forefront of the resilience science and engineering arena, leading to a vibrant, community-centered research and education portfolio that builds research capacity in Kansas.

The project aligns with the Kansas Science & Technology Plan, which was developed in 2021 and endorsed by the Kansas Board of Regents, which provided matching funds for the NSF proposal.

Wichita State University serves as the Kansas urban-based research university, enrolling more than 16,000 students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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