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Civil grad student presents pair of posters at major conference

Yohan Chang stands to the left of his two posters.

Yohan Chang, a doctoral student in the MU Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, was the only student to present two posters at RES/CON, held March 1-3 in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Yohan Chang.

RES/CON has branded itself as the premier conference on disaster management, and the competition to be selected to present a poster at its Student Research Expo is stiff. Just 16 posters were selected for the expo this year.

Yohan Chang had two of them.

The conference covers the registration fee, travel costs and hotel cost for selected presenters.

Participants were selected for the quality of their “research studies, practical problem-solving efforts or innovative ideas.” Chang’s posters illustrate ways that self-driven vehicles can evacuate disaster areas efficiently and safely. His first poster, “Evacuation traffic control in autonomous and connected vehicle environment,” maps out a safe and efficient intersection management and signaling method in place of the traditional light system that person-driven vehicles currently use.

“The vehicles request permission from the intersection manager, which decides if its safe [to proceed] or not,” Chang explained. “If it calculates that it’s safe, it’s good to go. But if they anticipate competition with other approaching vehicles, they alter their approaching speed.”

His second poster, “A study for congestion mitigation for hurricane evacuation with connected vehicle environment,” shows how self-driven cars can communicate to efficiently change lanes and merge on the highway when attempting to leave a disaster area. Also, it lays out a plan for turning usual inbound lanes into extra outbound lanes to allow for easier traffic flow.

“They push to lane change incrementally,” Chang said. “If people wanted to change lanes at the same time, it would make a big shockwave. But if we split their lane changing desire by time, by lane, by location, we can make it smoother. I found an equilibrium point.”

The topic ideas came to him after discussions with his doctoral adviser, Associate Professor Praveen Edara. In an attempt to increase his odds of selection, Chang submitted proposals for both posters, never expecting that both of them would be selected.

“I was worried a little bit because if I failed [to get selected], I’d have to pay more [to attend the conference],” he said. “I submitted an additional poster. I wanted to be safe. It was ideal, though it was tough to make two posters and two papers within the timeframe.”

And while everything worked out in terms of timing, meeting the deadline wasn’t the only concern Chang had at the time.

“My second baby was due, so I was really worried about him coming during my conference date,” the proud papa said with a smile.