Development of a Wireless Sensor Node for Structural Health Monitoring

Student Author(s)

Jeffrey Russcher
Courtney Myers

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Courtney Peckens

Document Type


Event Date



The current methods and resources available for monitoring the structural health of bridges are insufficient to meet growing infrastructure demands and ensure overall structural integrity. In recent years, efforts have been made to employ networks of wireless sensors to monitor factors that indicate structural deficiencies. The purpose of this research was to design a low-power and low-cost wireless sensor node capable of monitoring the state of civil infrastructure. Hardware was chosen for the node based on its power consumption and overall ease of use. For the node, ATMEL’s ATtiny 861a microcontroller was designed to interface with Texas Instrument’s CC2520, as well as an external memory chip and a tri-axis accelerometer. The entire node operates at 1.8V and consumes approximately two to four times less power than previous state-of-the-art sensors. The wireless sensor node was designed to interface with solar power, thus enabling continuous use of the node for extensive periods. Software from the Narada wireless sensor (University of Michigan), the Bio-Inspired wireless sensor (University of Michigan), and Texas Instrument’s CC2520 example code was adapted for use on the microcontroller. New code was added to the preexisting software to allow for transmission and reception of wireless packets, consistent with the IEEE 802.15.4 protocol. Additionally, software for collecting and storing data was written. The software was validated in hardware on a newly-developed sensor node and was verified to collect, store, and transmit data. The node was mounted on various static and dynamic systems, and the resulting data was then analyzed and shown to be consistent with the acceleration of the systems.


This research was supported in part by an award to Hope College from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Undergraduate Science Education Program, as well as Michigan Space Grant Consortium’s Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

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