Meet the Carnegie Mellon grads digitally mapping all 446 of Pittsburgh’s bridges, hoping to avert future collapses

One week into his freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University, Alexander Baikovitz received an assignment from his robotics professor to be completed over 2,000 miles from Pittsburgh.

It was 2016, and his professor — world-renowned roboticist Red Whittaker — tasked students to design a robot that would inspect the stability of an aging nuclear site deep within the interior of Washington state. Just a few hours drive from Portland, Ore., the site held 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in an underground rail tunnel.

After a year’s worth of work, his team made a big prediction the following May. “We actually predicted that this tunnel would collapse,” Mr. Baikovitz said. “Coincident with our predictions, on the day of my semester presentation to Red’s course, that tunnel actually collapsed.”

Now the CEO of Bloomfield-based Mach9 Robotics, 23-year-old Mr. Baikovitz and his team of fellow CMU graduates are again harnessing the power of technology to take innovative steps to predict — and hopefully prevent — future infrastructure failures in Pittsburgh.