Monday, January 6, 2014
It's All in the Design for UNO Engineers
For two semesters, Jason Van Huss, 30 of Metairie and four classmates designed and
built a dPMU Distribution-Level Phasor Measurement Unit that they believe Entergy
Services Inc. and other electrical utility companies could use in the future to collect
data and measure characteristics along the power system.
The device will help to monitor voltages and settings and let energy leaders know
in advance about the likelihood of an anticipated brown-out or blackout, for example.
The dPMU will also help energy leaders assess whether energy is being distributed
properly or evenly at various substations around the city - and signal any aberrations.
In December, the team presented their work under the name Ars Electrica Inc. at a
forum hosted by Entergy at UNO.
At the forum, four teams of UNO engineering students dressed in professional attire
unveiled senior design projects before their peers and a jury of engineering leaders
from leading New Orleans engineering firms and the local energy giant.
Diaaldean Joudeh's team created a 3D printer aimed at hobbyists and home consumers.
They used it to replicate two-inch plastic soldiers and detailed figurines of the
A Kitchen Cloud digital kitchen manager created by five power engineers can be operated
via smartphone or and other internet-connected device. Students believe they have
a large market in school cafeterias, where managing inventory is critical to operations.
A fourth team of students led by Assistant Dean of Engineering Kim Jovanavich inherited
from a previous class "The UNO Blimp." The engineering students redesigned and rewired
the 12-foot aerial indoor remote-controlled advertising blimp and plan to pass the
project along to future generations with an eye toward continuous improvement.
Parviz Rastgoufard, Entergy Endowed Chair for Power Systems Engineering at the University
of New Orleans College of Engineering, has a vision: A state-of-the-art program in
which undergraduate engineering students shepherd their own designs from project to
product and serve as a vital part of the city economy.
"The big picture is: We're going to improve the economy, we're going to keep the brains
here, we're going to encourage faculty to come here and work with us, we're going
to encourage angel investors and we're going to use it as a recruiting tool," said
Rastgoufard at a recent symposium.
Reversing the brain drain in New Orleans is critical to the city and state, the engineering
professor said. By partnering with local engineering firms and energy leaders to create
new and needed technology, the University is not only training tomorrow's workforce
and helping steer students to high-paying excellent jobs. The University is also opening
a window to high-level research and development opportunities in which undergraduate
and graduate students create products that can be patented and help propel technology.
At a recent forum hosted by Entergy Services Inc., four teams of UNO engineering students
dressed in professional attire unveiled senior design projects before their peers
and a jury of engineering leaders from leading New Orleans engineering firms and the
local energy giant. They delivered information on proof of concept, an economic analysis,
technical documents and data and a marketing plan in bite-size chunks to judges while
fielding hard-hitting questions on viability, marketability and testing of their constructions.
The year-long senior design program has been a core part of the engineering curriculum
for many years, said Assistant Dean of Engineering Kim Jovanovich. Since arriving
on campus in 2007, Rastgoufard has worked to advance the program into a bonafide product
pipeline by adding "entrepreneurship" and "undergraduate research" to the traditional
design with the potential of generating graduate research projects worthy of state
and federal grants managed by the University's Office of Research and Sponsored Development.
"When I see the students' projects almost converted to products, that's a very good
feeling," Rastgoufard said of the senior design projects unveiled Dec. 6. "With a
little push, each of projects is going to be a product...We've got four groups of
graduates that are very close to producing a product out of their own companies."
From Project to Product
Witness the Ars Electrica's dPMU Distribution Phasor Measurement Unit created by five
seniors, three of whom work or have worked for Entergy as interns in a UNO-Entergy
Cooperative. The cooperative forged in 2009 has allowed several dozen UNO students
to work at the electric utility company headquartered in New Orleans.
On the job, students have an opportunity to see needs of the company and others like
it, said undergraduate student Jason Van Huss, 30, of Metairie, who graduated Dec.
20 with a degree in electrical engineering.
"It not only gives our students the experience but what Entergy gets is they test
the students while they're in co-op and then they hire them," said Rastgoufard. "Normally
it takes six months to train a new employee. That's six months' salary. So they save
on that and they save on hiring the right person while the student feels out the company
as well. It's a very beneficial relationship for students, industry, and the university."
Van Huss and his peers — Sean Duvernay, 23, of Harvey; Rania Haddad, 23, of Lebanon;
Andrew Brignac, 22, of Norco and Luis Mayora, 22, of New Orleans — created the dPMU,
a device that collects data on the utility system and measures characteristics along
the power system.
The equipment will help Entergy to monitor voltages and settings and let Entergy leaders
know in advance about the likelihood of an anticipated brown-out or blackout, for
example. The dPMU will also help Entergy leaders assess whether energy is being distributed
properly or evenly at various substations around the city – and signal any aberrations.
"It's a digital record of electrical voltage and current," said Mayora. "What you'll
get out of it is the magnitude and phase shift."
Currently, Entergy uses PMUs, or phasor measurement units, which collect data on the
utility system within its service territory, Rastgoufard said. UNO graduate and undergraduate
students previously spent three years analyzing data collected by transmission PMUs
located at various substations in the Entergy power system.
Whereas the large-scale PMUs currently used by Entergy require space, hardware, customized
panels and infrastructure costing as much as $60,000, the dPMU created by UNO students
performs the same functions, operates wirelessly, could be made for approximately
$1,500 and sold for approximately $3,000 apiece, Van Huss said during his presentation.
Entergy currently has 60 PMUs operating along 15,000 miles of energy lines. A switch
could lead to enormous savings.
Rastgoufard gave an analogy: People with heart problems who want to monitor their
health install an instrument to gather 24 hours' worth of data for review and analysis.
The dPMU digital recorder created at UNO collects 6,000 samples per second of voltage
and current and then performs calculations, determining system health and communicating
the information to electric utility personnel via wireless technology.
The newer technology will also help improve development of the SmartGrid, a new meter
designed to give individual users and homeowners more data about the energy they are
using, VanHuss said.
The new wireless dPMUs can also timestamp data, allowing engineers to assess data
at stations miles apart and collect and aggregate up to a year's worth of data.
Rastgoufard displayed photos of a QuadCopter that was developed last year by UNO Engineering
students — and looks very similar to the Amazon drone now appearing in the news.
"A lot of the work that Parviz and the instructors try to encourage is really high
tech and ambitious," said Chris Adams, a 2010 UNO Engineering graduate who now works
fulltime at Entergy as a power engineer.
Adams participated in the UNO-Entergy Cooperative and his senior design project in
2010 involved developing equipment that recognizes fingerprints, he said.
Jacob Borison, 23, of St. Bernard Parish; Patrick Campbell, 32, of Slidell; Joseph
Welch, 29, of Modesto, Calif. and Michael Kenney, 21, of St. Bernard working as a
company called SKIT Inc. developed the Kitchen Cloud.
"What we developed is a platform for digital-based kitchen inventory management,"
said Borison. "Last semester when we were talking about this, we felt like the kitchen
needed some help in the inventory department....We thought it would be cool to bring
the kitchen into modern times."
The digital kitchen manager can be operated via Smart phone or any other internet-connected
device, runs off a server, database and UNO-designed software and communicates with
Kitchen Cloud software. Users can sync the device with their kitchen inventories;
assess whether they have ingredients required by a recipe; weigh ingredients; add
inventory; manage their shopping lists; link to social media accounts and share recipe
recommendations; find nearby stores carrying needed ingredients, sync with Google
and other online databases and more.
The 2½ inch-high sleek and compact design can fit anywhere in the kitchen, Borison
said. The team believes they have a large market in school cafeterias, which feed
35,000 public school students in St. Tammany Parish and 900,000 students in New York.
A third senior design team said that 3-D printing will reshape the world in the next
"Instead of waiting for someone to create a product for you, you can create your own,"
said Haytham Hamad, 29, of Jerusalem. "We all need to think creative about giving
people the tools to be the makers of things."
Hamad, together with Diaal Dean Joudeh, 22, of Palestine and New Orleans and Ahmed
El Kenawi, 22, of Egypt used a hot print plate, extruder and nozzle to create an environmentally
3-D printer capable of printing life-size objects as big as two feet from plastic
The limit of 3-D printing lies in the user's imagination, said Hamad. A printer fashioned
from a used shipping container can print legal-sized materials to build buildings
His team created a 3-D printer from five motors, an Arduino processor, ramps and stepper
motors. The team estimated in their economic analysis that the printer targeted at
hobbyists and home consumers, could be produced at a fixed cost of $2,700. They used
it to replicate two-inch plastic soldiers and detailed figurines of the Eiffel Tower.
They would need to sell approximately 15 printers before they began turning a profit,
the team said. The sale of 50 3-D printers could yield more than $26,000. The low
manufacturing cost, along with their printer's unique shape and opportunities for
plastic recycling, creates a niche for them in the market, the team believes.
Rising Spirits, Rising Success
Engineering student Donald Leonard has worked on the UNO blimp for the last year with
friends and classmates Darryl Alexis, 26, of Pascagoula, Miss.; Derek Doredant, 24
of Metairie; Dustin Duhe, 23, of Westwego and Ray Fellows, 33, of Terrytown, he said.
The project was an inherited design conceived and created by previous classes. They
approached their work with an eye toward continuous improvement.
"We noticed when we received the blimp that the wiring in the gondola needed some
improvement," said engineering student Donald Leonard. "We drew a wiring diagram of
the gondola's first configuration, removed and replaced all wiring, connected wires
and soldered them to avoid accidental disconnection during flight."
Once the engineers developed their prototype, they spent months testing sensors, motors
and radio controls, said Leonard. They captured technical readings of the blimp's
performance at each iteration, hoping to pass the information along to future generations
with an eye toward continuous improvement.
"There are other RC blimps on the market but none that have the ease of use which
we have created," said Leonard, who said the blimp bearing the Privateers logo could
be used for advertising purposes. "We tried to have some fun doing this as well."
The 12-foot aerial indoor remote-controlled advertising blimp, which has received
nearly $1,900 in investments, over several years could one day include a gyroscope
and camera capable of shooting footage.