College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Iowa State’s I-Corps Program holds up Alipour as success story

Alice Alipour with power line towers in Ankeny. (Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

From Iowa State University’s Office of the Vice President for Research article, “Iowa State’s I-Corps Program seeks applicants for fall 2018 cohort.”

When dark, ominous clouds roll through the sky, most people suspect a storm is brewing and shrug it off. Alice Alipour, on the other hand, thinks about how storm-induced winds might force traffic signals to topple over, causing personal injury, property damage or traffic disruption.

The assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering (CCEE) knows traffic signal supports are structurally flexible with low mechanical damping, making them susceptible to fatigue failures from vibrations. As a result, she and her team, including Saransh Dikshit, graduate research assistant in CCEE, and Partha Sarkar, professor of aerospace engineering, are developing a new design for traffic signals that will help them dampen vibrations by transforming their inherent aerodynamic properties.

I-Corps has allowed Alipour and her team to engage in customer discovery early on to account for different factors — like customer preferences, functionality, and codes and regulations — to maximize the benefit of their final product to the community.

“I-Corps helped us get the experience of interacting with the end users of the products we are developing before finalizing designs,” Dikshit said. “The program made us more aware of the final implications of our research and taught us the basics of business planning. This process sparked some new ideas and helped us understand that the projects we are conducting are much more than immediate search results and, in fact, positively impact the users of our innovations.”

Alipour estimates the new product will not only be used as a retrofit solution on exiting traffic signals, but also an integrated design of new structures, providing a cost-effective solution to improve the structural safety of traffic signals at every intersection.

Read more in this full-length feature, “Civil, aerospace engineering faculty team up for NCHRP-sponsored IDEA project.” Follow Iowa State University’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (ISU CCEE) on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (search Iowa State University Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and ISUConE) for the latest news. For details, visit ISU CCEE on-line at