Parameter Estimation, Model Updating, Sensor Fusion


Engineers and infrastructure owners have to manage an aging civil infrastructure in the US. Engineers have the opportunity to analyze structures using finite element models (FEM), and often base their engineering decisions on the outcome of the results. Ultimately, the success of these decisions is directly related to the accuracy of the finite element model in representing the real-life structure. Improper assumptions in the model such as member properties or connections, can lead to inaccurate results. A major source of modeling error in many finite element models of existing structures is due to improper representation of the boundary conditions. In this study, it is aimed to integrate experimental and analytical concepts by means of parameter estimation, whereby the boundary condition parameters of a structure in question are determined. FEM updating is a commonly used method to determine the "as-is" condition of an existing structure. Experimental testing of the structure using static and/or dynamic measurements can be utilized to update the unknown parameters. Optimization programs are used to update the unknown parameters by minimizing the error between the analytical and experimental measurements. Through parameter estimation, unknown parameters of the structure such as stiffness, mass or support conditions can be estimated, or more appropriately, "updated", so that the updated model provides for a better representation of the actual conditions of the system. In this study, a densely instrumented laboratory test beam was used to carry-out both analytical and experimental analysis of multiple boundary condition setups. The test beam was instrumented with an array of displacement transducers, tiltmeters and accelerometers. Linear vertical springs represented the unknown boundary stiffness parameters in the numerical model of the beam. Nine different load cases were performed and static measurements were used to update the spring stiffness, while dynamic measurements and additional load cases were used to verify these updated parameters. Two different optimization programs were used to update the unknown parameters and then the results were compared. One optimization tool was developed by the author, Spreadsheet Parameter Estimation (SPE), which utilized the Solver function found in the widely available Microsoft Excel software. The other one, comprehensive MATLAB-based PARameter Identification System (PARIS) software, was developed at Tufts University. Optimization results from the two programs are presented and discussed for different boundary condition setups in this thesis. For this purpose, finite element models were updated using the static data and then these models were checked against dynamic measurements for model validation. Model parameter updating provides excellent insight into the behavior of different boundary conditions and their effect on the overall structural behavior of the system. Updated FEM using estimated parameters from both optimization software programs generally shows promising results when compared to the experimental data sets. Although the use of SPE is simple and generally straight-forward, we will see the apparent limitations when dealing with complex, non-linear support conditions. Due to the inherent error associated with experimental measurements and FEM modeling assumptions, PARIS serves as a better suited tool to perform parameter estimation. Results from SPE can be used for quick analysis of structures, and can serve as initial inputs for the more in depth PARIS models. A number of different sensor types and spatial resolution were also investigated for the possible minimum instrumentation to have an acceptable model representation in terms of model and experimental data correlation.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date





Catbas, F. Necati


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Program

Civil Engineering








Release Date

May 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)