The Kinetic Structures Laboratory is devoted to investigating the behavior, design, and optimization of a wide variety of kinetic structures. Current and recent projects include finding new forms for movable bridges, designing rapidly deployable shelters, and optimizing deployable bridges with applications for the military, the developing world, and disaster relief. In addition to ongoing research activities, Dr. Thrall has investigated kinetic structures for disaster relief through the SOM Structural Engineering Traveling Fellowship.
Dr. Thrall completed her Ph.D. in the "Design and Optimization of Linkage-Based Movable Bridges" at Princeton University in May 2011. This research focused on developing new forms for movable bridges utilizing linkages as the main structural and kinematic elements. The research methodology has included using physical shape-finding techniques to develop new conceptual designs that utilize mechanical advantage to minimize power demands. The geometry and the section profiles of each conceptual design are optimized for minimum self-weight and minimum force for operation.
Structural art is defined as structures that are efficient (minimum material consistent with safety), economic (competitive construction cost with minimal maintenance), and elegant [Billington, David P., The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.]. Exciting examples of structural art that Dr. Thrall has studied include Othmar Ammann's Bayonne Bridge, Gustave Eiffel's Maria Pia Bridge, and Felix Candela's Iglesia de la Virgen de la Medalla Milagrosa. This research has led to conference presentations, journal publications, a book chapter, and a piece in an art museum exhibition.