Dr. Song collaborates with OG&E to bring you smarter HVAC systems

The following article was released by OG&E in a recent newsletter. Are you smarter than your HVAC? In the near future, it may be a toss-up

If University of Oklahoma College of Engineering professor Li Song and OG&E Supervisor of Customer Support Jessica King have their way, your HVAC system soon will be smarter than you are – at least when it comes to energy management.

Song, an associate professor in the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, and her colleague Choon Yik Tang, with the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, have been working for the last five years to create a “smart” heating and cooling system that helps customers be more informed about their energy consumption and ultimately their energy bill.

Much of the success they’ve had so far is due to the partnership between OU and OG&E – and the relationship the two women have formed during the project.

Song’s original intention was to design for large, commercial buildings and reached out to Pat Saxton, Expert Account Manager for OG&E, who was working with Tinker Air Force Base. Song discovered the model for commercial buildings was “too cumbersome” to test outside of the lab and decided to use it for homeowners instead.

“Pat introduced me to Jessica, who gave me a perspective on what OG&E was doing with its SmartHours program and the company’s interest in helping make customers smarter energy consumers,” Song said.

Song is also working with Ecobee to put the smart HVAC technology in their thermostats. OG&E also is working with Ecobee to pilot their thermostats in 700 test homes, using the existing thermostat technology.

The new technology goes beyond the typical SmartTemp thermostats currently used in the SmartHours program in that it learns factors, such as humidity and air flow, within the home, customer energy consumption preferences and the performance of the HVAC system. It also takes into account outside factors such as temperature, wind speed, sunlight, weather forecasting and the cost of electricity during certain times of the day.

The technology also provides ahead-of-time forecasting so that customers know what their costs will be if they adjust their thermostat up or down.

Customers can control and monitor their thermostats using a smart phone app.

“We envision that customers in the future will receive personalized information about their home, their energy costs and their own energy consumption and will know it ahead of time or in real time,” King said. “In other words, they won’t be left in the dark about what their end bill will be.”

King assisted Song by writing letters in support of the project that were included in the application to get funding from the Department of Energy.

“After the success of SmartHours, we were asking ourselves ‘what’s next?’” King said. “And here was this great opportunity to support our local university and further our vision of being a trusted energy advisor for our customers.”

Song and her research team are now undertaking a two-year program to test the technology in an unoccupied home on the OU campus.

“We want complete control in these initial tests but will simulate the moisture, heat and other factors created by residents.”

In the third year, OG&E will recruit about 10 customers to participate as occupied test homes and, following this pilot, will expand the program to more homes.

Both women’s eyes light up when they talk about the technology and what it can do for OG&E customers.

“We envision expanding the technology to eventually all smart thermostats to give people more knowledge about how they use energy, what it costs and how small changes can impact their end bill,” Song said. “As well as helping predict the bill, the system will improve HVAC operations, detect AC problems earlier and possibly have an environmental impact as well.”

“The possibilities are endless,” King added. “We could work with home builders to create a true Positive Energy Home, and we’ve already formed a partnership with Ideal Homes to explore this possibility. Plus the data we get from the thermostats could help us target customers for energy efficiency programs, helping us provide energy assistance to those who need it most.”

Brooke Owens Fellowship Recipient Encourages Others to Apply

This summer, aerospace engineering student Kaley Hassell participated in the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program. Now, she is encouraging other students to apply.

Hassell decided to apply for the Brooke Owens Fellowship program when she saw that it offered opportunities to work with amazing aerospace companies. She said, “the program is absolutely amazing for undergraduate women in aerospace.” Applications for the fellowship are open, and they close on November 12th.

As a selected fellow, Kaley Hassel worked with the engineering department at Sierra Nevada Corporation on the Dream Chaser spacecraft. She also got the opportunity to work with astronauts and CEOs.

Part of the Brooke Owens Fellowship Summit was the grand challenge presentation held in Washington D.C. “All of us were divided into groups and solved a grand challenge-or humanity’s next biggest feat,” Hassell said. “We got to present and network with a lot of cool people! We were tasked with solving how we could create a collaborative lunar economy. It was a lot of fun.”

Part of the Fellowship is being assigned a professional mentor. “Mine was Mr. Tory Bruno, CEO of the United Launch Alliance,” Hassell said. “It was really awesome getting to know and learn from him. He even invited me to observe mission control on the recent AEHF5 launch on August 8th!”

Kaley Hassell’s Experiences

NASA Administrator Mr. Jim Bridenstine keynote spoke to the Brookies at one of the fellowship dinners. “It was really cool,” Hassell said. “I learned a lot about how policy goes into the aerospace world and even got to ask him a question face to face!”

Hassell said the Brookies are definitely a family. She got to make some great connections with women from around the world who are passionate about making a change in the world of aerospace.

They also got to have a fireside chat with NASA Chief of Staff Janet Karika.

They also got to meet Oklahoma Representative Kendra Horn, and have a fireside chat with her about different space issues as well as learn from her successes and experience.

Kaley Hassell and her friend Ivy (another Brookie) with the Dream Chaser spacecraft. “I worked in the Systems Engineering department, solving problems and integrating between different systems,” Hassell said.

Pictured is the Brookie Class of 2019 at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum. The Discovery space shuttle is in the background. “It was really cool to see it in person since I was basically working on a mini version of the Shuttle at SNC this summer!” Hassell said.

Development of Zero-Liquid Discharge Freeze System to Remove Dissolved Salt from Contaminated Water

Management of waste water is a challenging issue in many municipal and industrial sectors. The oil and gas industry produces a massive amount of waste water during production. The production of one barrel of oil results in approximately nine barrels of water that is contaminated with salt, heavy metals, and organic compounds. The development of methods for cost-efficient disposal and re-use of produced water without damage to the environment is a critical need for the oil and gas industry. Also, re-use of the water for agricultural purposes will be helpful because the agricultural sector is a primary consumer of increasingly scarce freshwater (accounting for 63% of U.S. surface water withdrawals, according to the U.S. Geological Survey).

Researchers Discuss Equipment with Assistants Castillo Alejandro and Aly Elhefny

In this project sponsored by the US Department of Energy, Drs. Shabgard, Cai and Parthasarathy are working on the development of a novel, zero-liquid discharge freeze system to remove dissolved salt from contaminated water. Freeze-desalination processes are well suited for these situations because pure ice crystals can be produced even in highly concentrated brine. However, current freeze-desalination technologies have some deficiencies that hinder their widespread use. A new method of eutectic freeze desalination will be used with a cooling approach that maximizes efficiency. Thus, the need for energy-intensive evaporation methods is avoided. The density differences between water, ice, and salty brine are used to separate the components. The system will operate under atmospheric pressure and be capable of treating highly concentrated/contaminated water. If successful, the treated water will be suitable for agricultural use, providing an abundant new water source. The goal is to develop a zero-liquid discharge (ZLD) freeze-desalination system capable of treating water with total dissolved solids (TDS) values up to 250,000 mg/l (milligrams per liter). For comparison, the TDS content of seawater is approximately 35,000 mg/l.

The proposed system offers a sustainable solution for the increasing water demand in industrial and oil and gas sectors by recycling the otherwise wasted water, without putting pressure on increasingly scarce fresh water resources also in demand by local communities for agricultural and municipal purposes. Also, the environmental concerns related to disposing of highly contaminated water are avoided by the use of the proposed ZLD desalination system.

Dr. Song Receives Multiple Awards for Current Research

Dr. Li Song, an associate professor at AME, received three awards for her current research projects. Two awards are from the Department of Energy, and the third award is from Battelle – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Song is the lead PI for the development and validation of a home comfort system for total performance deficiency/fault detection and optimal control project, which received a DOE fund of $993,149. The research team will develop and validate a smart thermostat-integrated low-cost home energy management system, including a data connection framework; a computationally efficient, self-learning home thermal model; automatic fault detection and analysis algorithms; and home energy management information and controls based on in-situ measured efficiencies of heating and cooling equipment, the air distribution system, and the building envelope.

The second DOE fund is $551,566 for the performance demonstration of an occupancy sensor-enabled integrated solution for commercial buildings project. The research team will validate the performance and savings of three HVAC control (fan, cooling coil valve, outside air) algorithms integrated with occupancy sensing data to optimize ventilation delivery.

A $50,000 award was given to Song from Battelle – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for her “Transactive-Control Based Connected Home Solution for Existing Residential Units and Communities” project.

This is a summary of Song’s research proposal sent to Battelle: To obtain the overall project aims, the development of machine learning techniques to calibrate the initial physical model that estimates and predicts energy use of a house and its response to control signals is extremely important. An effective home thermal model, that can predict the indoor air temperature dynamics under different weather, HVAC output and internal gains from appliances and occupants, is essential for the development.

BEEL initiated the development of a self-learning home thermal model two years ago. The BEEL home model, currently limited for a house with an A/C and gas-furnace heater, can automatically identify the model parameters with minimum data needed and precisely predict the space temperature and home HVAC energy uses for a house. To enhance the connectivity and compatibility of the platform proposed by PNNL, BEEL is committed to expand the home thermal model for a heat pump system and test enhanced home model using two houses located in Oklahoma through the partnership with OG&E. The challenge of modeling the heat pump is that the heating output from a heat pump is no longer constant as-is for a gas furnace heater. A correlation of the heating output of a heat pump and outdoor air temperature needs to be formulated and similarly, a correlation between cooling output of a heat pump and weather might be needed for cooling season as well.

Congratulations Dr. Song!

Additional News About Dr. Song’s Research:
Dr. Song’s Research is Promoted in the Press
Dr. Song Receives 2018 ASHRAE Technical Paper Award

 

Robust Adaptive Controls for Shipboard Landing of Multi-Rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Alex Bryant and Lauren Ingmire in the lab.

A newly funded project in the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering makes use of close collaboration between researchers in different fields to improve a critical technology for national defense. Dr. Keith Walters and Dr. Andrea L’Afflitto (now a faculty member at Virginia Tech) are combining their respective expertise in aerodynamics and controls to address a difficult challenge for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

It is well known that UAVs are increasingly being used for both commercial and military applications. The United States Department of Defense (DoD) currently employs multi-rotor helicopters (quadcopters) for remote sensing missions, such as surveillance and search and rescue. In the future, they will support troops by performing tactical tasks, such as picking up and dropping off payloads and surveying cluttered environments. Of particular interest are vehicles that operate autonomously, that is without any direct control by human pilots. These vehicles use onboard computers and mathematical control algorithms to perform necessary aerial maneuvers, travel to desired locations, avoid obstacles, and perform whatever tasks are required of their mission. The development of new and improved control algorithms is, therefore, an active area of research with the potential for substantial impact on next-generation UAVs.

This project focuses on the development of improved control algorithms specifically designed for the landing of UAVs on U.S. Navy ships. Shipboard landing is a complex task for UAVs because 1) the deck is highly unsteady in rough seas; 2) adverse sea conditions are often accompanied by adverse weather and high winds; 3) the superstructure of a moving ship induces a wake in the air, which further perturbs the UAVs landing on its deck; 4) near hard surfaces, the ‘ground effect’ alters the thrust produced by the propellers; and 5) UAVs returning from a mission may be damaged. To land on the deck of a ship, a UAV’s control system regulates the thrust forces of each propeller so that the aircraft approaches the ship with some desired relative velocity and orientation, leading to (hopefully) a gentle touch down in the appropriate location.

The primary objective of this research is to design a robust adaptive control system for multi-rotor UAVs that allows precise landing on the deck of moving ships. The work builds on prior research by former AME faculty member Andrea L’Afflitto and will make use of a model reference adaptive control (MRAC) architecture. Such an approach guarantees robustness of the closed-loop feedback system to both uncertainties in system parameters and unknown state-dependent disturbances that affect the control inputs, such as wind gusts or the swinging of an attached cargo payload.

The control algorithm will also be improved by adopting more realistic functional relationships between propeller rotational speed (RPM) and the generated thrust. Currently, it is assumed that thrust is simply proportional to RPM squared under all conditions. While this is often nearly true when a UAV is hovering in calm air, it does not hold during complex aerial maneuvers, under the action of strong wind disturbances, or when the vehicle is close to a solid surface such as the deck of a ship. Keith Walters and his students will perform computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations of quadrotor propellers to more accurately determine the relationship between thrust and RPM under these conditions. The simulations will be used to develop an analytical function that will be included in the control algorithm developed by Dr. L’Afflitto.

The scientific advances made by this project will be disseminated in the technical literature and will provide opportunities for graduate students to participate in national or international conferences. The improvement to UAV performance during shipboard landing will be critical to increasing the value of these vehicles to U.S. Navy missions, and the technology can be translated to other branches of the armed forces to improve design and operation of their next-generation UAV systems. Eventually, the research may be adopted by the commercial sector to improve, for example, the use of UAVs for package delivery or remote sensing in adverse weather conditions.

Meet Dr. Kazempoor, an Assistant Professor new to the University of Oklahoma

Dr. Pejman Kazempoor started working at OU as an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the beginning of this semester. Dr. Kazempoor’s research interests include driving sustainable performance in the Oil and Gas industry; process modeling, simulation, and optimization; natural gas transmission and processing; energy storage, fuel cells, and batteries; advanced sensor technologies; data analytics and machine learning.

Dr. Kazempoor believes that OU is a well-respected and comprehensive global university that has incredible diversity on campus. He also said that OU stands out as a leader in many sciences, engineering, and medical fields. It has been providing students with a world-class education for over 100 years. He said OU is also the leading arts and cultural center in the state of Oklahoma.

He’s looking forward to developing innovative and multi-disciplinary research projects related to the oil and gas industry. He is broadly interested in sustainable energy for the O&G industry with the main objectives to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

Dr. Kazempoor is from the city of Isfahan located in central Iran. The city is renowned for its outstanding Islamic and Iranian architecture. The city was once one of the largest and most important cities in Central Asia. French poet Renier visited Isfahan for the first time; and called it “half of the World.”¹

Dr. Kazempoor enjoys fine arts especially Western and Native-American paintings and bronze sculptures. He was a marathon runner when he was younger, but now he enjoys more hiking, fishing, camping and spending time with his family and friends. Dr. Kazempoor also plays two traditional music instruments –Tar and Setar.

¹http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Isfahan_Half_of_the_World.htm

AME Graduate Students Create Evaluation App

Sam Jett, a mechanical engineering graduate, and Zach Schuermann, a mechanical engineering and computer engineering graduate created an application for students to evaluate professors and courses. In the video below, Sam Jett gives a tutorial for The Student-Teacher Evaluation Visualization app (STEV) and explains why they decided to create it.

Click here to visit the full STEV web app.

STEV in the News:
OU Daily

 

Student Team Updates

SOONER OFF-ROAD TEAM

On May 16, the Sooner Off-Road team traveled to California for the Baja SAE competition. In the competition, engineering students were tasked with designing and building a single-seat, all-terrain sporting vehicle.

The Sooner Off-Road team was able to pass technical inspection and brake check on the first day of the competition. Additionally, they received 13th place in the suspension & traction event, 12th place in the sales presentation, 100/150 points in the design presentation, and 30th in the endurance race. The team finished 34th overall. The team and their advisors are very proud of the results!

On September 21, the team also attended the Midnight Mayhem Competition at the University of Lousiville. They took two vehicles to the competition, the 2019 competition vehicle, Isabella #12, and the 2018 competition vehicle, Valerie #41. They competed against 100 other teams in the competition and finished with successful results.

SOONER RACING TEAM

The Sooner Racing Team had a successful competition at Formula SAE Lincoln, an engineering design competition for undergraduate and graduate students. The team traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska from June 19-22 and exceeded their goals for the competition.

The Sooner Racing Team received 14th in the cost event, 14th in fuel efficiency, 22nd in endurance, 26th in acceleration, 29th in design, and a 10th place award for the quality of their engineering drawings. They finished the competition 33rd overall out of the 80 teams. Additionally, the team got through technical inspections in the first two days with only minor adjustments needed, completed all of the static and dynamic events, and finished the endurance race. Overall, the team is very happy with the results and the way the car came out this year!

BOOMER ROCKET TEAM

Boomer Rocket Team received 3rd place at the Argonia cup competition. The event took place in Argonia, Kansas from March 30-31, 2019.

The competition objective was to launch a rocket-powered vehicle in excess of 8,000’ AGL. The rocket had to contain a golf ball payload, and the team had to recover the payload safely at a predetermined location on the rocket range.

FUNDRAISING EFFORTS

OU Thousands Strong is OU’s official crowdfunding platform. It serves as an online tool to help students, faculty and staff display select projects and raise funds to turn their ambitious ideas into reality. Two AME student teams are currently running campaigns, Sooner Off-Road and OU Boomer Rocket Team. Design, Build, Fly will be starting a campaign in the near future.

Sooner Off-Road Thousands Strong Campaign (Click to Donate)

OU Boomer Rocket Team Thousands Strong Campaign (Click to Donate)

Spring 2019 Capstone Poster Fair Highlights

Many projects from the Spring 2019 Capstone Fair made a lasting impact on the community. Each group did an amazing job of solving a real-world problem and presenting their poster project at the fair.

The highlighted groups from last semester’s Capstone fair include the the Iron Cross Experience, Introducing Girl Scouts to STEM project, the Electronics Assist Equipment project, the B-52 Spoiler Fixture Redesign, Sooner Off-Road, and groups that worked with Baker Hughes and Schlumberger.

The members of The Iron Cross Experience (pictured below), Jared Alex, Garrett Parkhurst, Bryan Boone, Covey Barlow, and Isaac Pryzant, were tasked with introducing patrons at the Science Museum Oklahoma to gymnastics with an interactive and educational exhibit. The project was added to the Science Museum this summer and patrons can use the interactive game to perform an iron cross. The group fully integrated electronics to provide an interactive experience, manufactured the X-Frame graphics stand to match aesthetic of the ring stand, displayed dynamic graphics and feedback for the user when interacting with the exhibit, and did troubleshooting and maintenance guide for the ring stand, electronic components, programming, and X-Frame.

The Electronics Assist Equipment members, Pranav Mohan, Ashley Medice, Gerald Lance, and David Carris (pictured below) were featured on KOCO 5 for their work with 11-year-old Christopher Ramirez, a young man who does not have use of his arms or legs due to a muscle disorder. The group created tools to help him independently read a textbook, use a computer, use a phone, and play Xbox games. They placed first in prototype design at the capstone poster fair.

Emma Hensley, Moises Martinez, Nicole Reed, and Dakota Walters were members of the “Introducing Girl Scouts to STEM” project (pictured below). The group worked closely with Girl Scouts to teach them about simple machines and women in engineering. They encouraged the involvement of Girl Scouts in STEM by creating an educational experience in the space provided that could be understood by all Girl Scouts of all knowledge bases. Through the creation of a dumbwaiter, they were able to teach the girls about how to discover, connect, and take action.

The “Setup to Evaluate Debris-Scrapper Ring Design” project (pictured below) placed second overall and received first place in experimental and testing. The team worked closely with Schlumberger to implement design and prototyping of experimental setup to reciprocate scraper rings to failure in a debris-laden fluid. Scraper rings were evaluated in dynamic high-pressure and temperature applications with varying concentrations of debris. The group successfully met the design requirements and all systems were integrated. The group members were Courtney Holloway, Nicholas Son, Alexander Nagy, Abel Rivera, and Haydn Kirkpatrick.

The “Test Bench for ESP Seal Section Permeability” project (pictured below) worked with BHGE and received second place in experimental and testing. This team worked with Baker Hughes to solve the problem of the contamination of motor oil. Well-bore fluids appeared to be contaminating motor oil within the bladder section. The group addressed the permeation through bladder materials, one of the possible causes of motor oil contamination. The team was able to address the concerns and create a prototype for the company. Group members were Logan Vitello, Travis Wilbanks, Ifeanyi Ijioma, Marshall Thorpe, and Logan Roys.

Sooner Off-Road (pictured below), had objectives to reduce the weight of the Sooner Off-Road vehicle by 50%, increase performance (acceleration and top speed), increase tunability (easier and more options), and decrease cost (in house manufacturing). They were able to decrease the weight from 8 pounds to 3.01 pounds, increase the acceleration from 5 sec/100ft to 4.5 sec/100ft, increase tunability through preload shims, and decrease cost from $2,200 to $250.

The B-52 Spoiler project group members (pictured below), were given the task to consolidate seven spoiler fixtures down to three or fewer fixtures. The assembly fixtures are used to assemble the metal structure and skin of the spoilers with proper alignment. This group exceeded the target objective and consolidated down to one fixture.

Sooner Off-Road (Matt Muhlinghause, Haley Ricks, and Devin Prochniak) and The B-52 Spoiler Fixture Redesign (Morgan Wolfe, Tyler Thibodeaux, Alexandra Arment, Roshan Mathews, and Alex Mudd) tied for first place overall!

More Capstone Details:
Complete list of the project awards with pictures
Day of Event Flickr Photo Album

Undergraduate Rocket Research Group has Successful Launch

The University of Oklahoma’s Undergraduate Rocket Research group launched a rocket in Argonia, Kansas on March 10th, 2019. Dr. Thomas Hays and his students are proud of the results.

The rocket had a maximum speed of Mach 1.15 and weighed 105 pounds. The students involved in the launch were Kaley Hassell, Jarod Manning, Alex Speed, and Scott Tesser. Congratulations on your successful launch!

Click here to watch the video of the rocket.