Success Stories

Lebanese-American engineer receives White House honor

(WASHINGTON, DC) — A Lebanese-American engineer will be honored at the White House on Tuesday for inventing a composite arch bridge system, known as the “Bridge-in-a-Backpack.”

Dr. Habib Dagher, founding director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, will be recognized as a “2015 White House Transportation Champion of Change.”

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx will recognize 11 of the nation’s top transportation innovators for their exemplary leadership in advancing transportation in the country.

“Maine has benefited in so many ways from Habib Dagher’s leadership at the university’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center,” U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, said. “From Bridge in a Backpack to the VolturnUS wind-power project, the brilliant innovations he has developed are opening many economic opportunities for the state’s future.”

Dagher, who was nominated by the American Society of Civil Engineers to receive the award, has been named on 24 patents with 8 more pending.

“In his 30 years at the University of Maine, Habib has embodied the teaching, research and community engagement efforts at the heart of Maine’s research university,” Susan Hunter, University of Maine president, said. “In all these efforts, he has engaged hundreds of students — tomorrow’s workforce — and created jobs.”


The Composite Arch Bridge System is a lightweight, corrosion resistant system for short to medium span bridge construction using composite arch tubes that start out flat and packed in a bag.

The tubes are inflated and bent to any curvature over a mold and infused with a resin. The tubes can cure in three hours, resulting in a lightweight curved hollow arch twice as strong as steel, which is then filled with concrete on site.

UMaine has licensed the composite arch bridge technology to a private start-up company, Advanced Infrastructure Technologies (AIT), who designs and builds these bridges.

Some roadway bridges have been built in less than two weeks, including the time it takes to remove the existing structure – this means less road closures and traffic disruptions.

In 2014, the Composite Arch Bridge system was approved in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) bridge code, the first FRP composite bridge system to be approved in the US bridge design code.

The White House Champions of Change Program honors Americans who are empowering and inspiring other members of their communities.

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