National Grid

The University of Central Florida (UCF) received a $750,000 investment to open a high tech classroom at the university to teach students how to run a digital grid.Engineering giant Siemens has partnered with UCF to train students and conduct research in operating computerised grids.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “workers were snaking bundles of yellow cable through the rectangular classroom, installing 70-inch monitors and getting desks set for 17 students.”

Students will have simulated control of UCF grid factors that include weather, output of a small power plant, the cost of electricity from Duke Energy and a campus that serves the nation’s second-largest student body.

The software also would incorporate UCF’s anticipated construction of a 14-megawatt solar plant, which would be the region’s largest.

“If you look at today’s electric grid that starts with the power plant that everybody is familiar with and the dam that generates power, and now it’s starting to include photovoltaic solar panels and batteries and windmills,” said Michael Carlson, president of Siemens Digital Grid, North America.

“That continual change in what is arguably the most complex machine ever built is demanding more and more expertise and more and more digitalization and more automation.”

Smart grid

Matt Aberman, a UCF graduate student in electrical engineering, was reported saying that the classroom’s  a UCF graduate student in electrical engineering. “That’s going to want to make students want to engage and learn,” he said.

UCF already has a pipeline to Orlando Utilities Commission, with the past four people hired for the electrical-distribution department being UCF graduates.

“We want to train students so they are prepared for the future. At the same time we are going to do that research,” said Zhihua Qu, chair of UCF’s electrical engineering department.

Qu noted that the classroom should evolve into research as students gain grid experience through internships or jobs and come back to the classroom with real-world challenges.

He added that grids are becoming far more dynamic and complex, relying increasingly on solar power, wind power and batteries and calling for talents and technology that don’t exist yet.

“We want to train students so they are prepared for the future,” Qu said. “At the same time, we are going to do that research.”