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VMASC Researchers Demonstrate Simulation on Capitol Hill

Researchers at Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) will be participating in a prestigious M&S expo Tuesday, July 15 in Washington, D.C. Their task: to demonstrate a hurricane evacuation model of Hampton Roads.

Hosted by the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA), the expo will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. This year, event organizers aim to exhibit the value and use of modeling and simulation beyond traditional Department of Defense applications.

With support from U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, head of the Congressional M&S Caucus, researchers Mike Robinson and Pete Foytik will represent VMASC at the expo, where they will demonstrate their model for the evacuation of Hampton Roads in the event of a hurricane (categories 1-4). The model simulates the timely departure of more than 900,000 of the region's residents via six different routes at any given time. The study incorporates the use of the latest population figures and current Army Corps of Engineers flood zone mapping. The result is a dynamic, automated simulation that illustrates the effects that congestion, accidents and incidents would have on an evacuation.

"I am absolutely thrilled with the opportunity," said Mike Robinson. "It is a very good opportunity to exhibit what we are able to do and the credibility we have achieved in an area of national need."

VMASC heads to the Washington expo having already demonstrated its model to Virginia state officials, who then briefed Gov. Timothy Kaine. According to Robinson, the feedback was "very good; the model was very well received." The study, which took a year to produce and perfect, will be available for consultation when experts rewrite the state's hurricane evacuation plan.

VMASC has several additional studies underway in the fields of medicine, education and military-based M&S. For example, the center's transportation cluster is working on models for the distribution of freight arriving in Hampton Roads and a General Assembly task to study proposed construction projects that would reduce congestion and address future transportation needs throughout the region.

"The NTSA expo provides us the chance to showcase Hampton Roads and Virginia modeling and simulation products before members of Congress and their staffs," said Michael McGinnis, VMASC executive director. "It offers valuable visibility and a tremendous opportunity to network with representatives from around the region and across the nation.

"The evacuation model we will be demonstrating is expandable, exportable, a model for potential use elsewhere," he continued. "We hope to utilize it next in Northern Virginia and then in Richmond. It can be applied to natural and man-made disasters across borders, so it also provides the framework for multistate projects to model a hurricane evacuation across Virginia and North Carolina, for example. This is what we'll demonstrate on Capitol Hill. It represents what VMASC was meant to be, what it has become."

With its new, state-of-the-art facility located in "Sim City," along the Portsmouth-Suffolk city line, VMASC has rapidly become a catalyst for the growth of modeling and simulation in Hampton Roads, and ODU has gained recognition as a national leader in this area of research.

This article was posted on: July 14, 2008

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