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HomeBlogThe Engineer Who Solves Crises Earlier than They Occur — Rob Hovsapian

The Engineer Who Solves Crises Earlier than They Occur — Rob Hovsapian


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A few decade in the past, Rob Hovsapian purchased a sailboat. He named it V’ger.

For non-Trekkies, V’ger was a probe despatched into house by twentieth century Earthlings within the first Star Trek film. The probe’s process was to gather as a lot data as doable. And it does. After amassing two centuries’ value of knowledge, the probe turns into a sentient being and modifications its identify from Voyager 6 to V’ger.

Hovsapian, a mechanical engineer on the Nationwide Renewable Vitality Laboratory (NREL), donated his sailboat to the crusing membership at his alma mater, Florida State College. However he is not going to completely lose V’ger — at the very least not in spirit.

At NREL, he’s constructing one other huge, knowledge-gobbling machine, one that might assist clear up future crises — perhaps not Star-Trek-level Earth-ending crises, however shut. How can we construct a dependable clear vitality grid, for instance? Or make it simpler to evacuate from pure disasters? Or shield banks from quantum hackers?

“As a nationwide lab, we have to be trying on the large image,” Hovsapian mentioned, “issues that we are able to deal with 5 to 10 years down the highway.”

Just like the Star Trek crew, Hovsapian is an explorer, however his remaining frontier is the longer term. And his spaceship (V’ger mild) is one thing known as Superior Analysis on Built-in Vitality Programs, or ARIES for brief. This refined, one-of-a-kind analysis platform can emulate how our future applied sciences, together with energy vegetation, batteries, sensible telephones, electrical autos, sensible buildings, and extra, would talk (or fail to speak) throughout an emergency.

Now, Hovsapian is including new options to his spaceship. He’s connecting NREL to different labs — together with nationwide laboratories and educational establishments — to construct a SuperLab and research how the nation may reply to an enormous, national-scale disaster. And he’s including quantum computer systems to the ARIES platform to rapidly establish patterns and enhance emergency response.

“It’s our responsibility to start out figuring out these challenges and growing options,” Hovsapian mentioned. “We don’t need to wait till an issue occurs earlier than determining methods to clear up it.”

In NREL’s newest Manufacturing Masterminds Q&A, Hovsapian shares why he stopped constructing fighter jets and armed forces radios; what his children assume he builds now; and how much uncommon, nationwide occasions the SuperLab would possibly assist clear up.

How did you find yourself changing into an engineer?

I at all times needed to be an engineer. From elementary college all the way in which to varsity, there was little doubt.

Wow. How had been you so certain?

I simply knew. I used to be taking issues aside. I at all times took my toys aside as a result of I needed to understand how they labored, proper? I took the tv and VCRs aside.

June 21, 2023 — Guests from the College of South-Jap Norway (USN) are touring the Nationwide Renewable Vitality Laboratory’s (NREL’s) ARIES DRTS laboratory to debate present hydropower initiatives and future collaborations. Rob Hovsapian (left), NREL Vitality Programs Integration, explains NREL analysis. Now, he’s constructing a one-of-a-kind analysis platform to discover — and stress check — our future vitality and energy programs. Picture by Bryan Bechtold, NREL.

I’m certain your dad and mom had been thrilled with that. Then, why choose mechanical engineering versus a unique engineering area of interest?

I began my profession as an aerospace engineer after which finally, since I didn’t know precisely what I needed to do, I obtained into mechanical engineering. It was extra numerous, and controls was at all times my ardour.

What does that imply, “controls”?

In robotics, controls refers to the way you drive, say, your robotic arm to a selected location and, in actual time, management its place and pace to fabricate a product.

Oh, cool! So, I do know you went to the College of Alabama to your undergraduate research. What did you do after that?

I learn a guide by Professor Krishna Karamcheti, who had written numerous fluid mechanics books that I studied throughout my undergraduate years. After I noticed he was a school member at Florida State College, I reached out, and he invited me to return and go to. I not solely ended up admitted into the graduate college; he additionally gave me a job. However he made me promise to complete my doctorate and assist different college students. So, ever since then, I at all times have two or three doctoral college students that I counsel. That’s me protecting that promise.

Seems like a fairly whole lot. What job did he get you?

My first job was with Normal Dynamics, an aerospace and protection firm. That was 1989. I labored on constructing a next-generation military radio, utilizing robotics and manufacturing traces. After that, I went to work for the U.S. Air Power’s F-22 stealth fighter jet program. I automated the manufacturing of F-22 fighter jets, utilizing an automotive manufacturing line, which was less expensive. Then, whereas I accomplished my doctorate, I labored as a program supervisor and board member for america Division of the Navy’s Workplace of Naval Analysis the place I managed a analysis program centered on growing all-electric ships.

Wow!

Yeah. My children requested me, “What are you constructing now?” and I inform them I construct PowerPoint shows. From F-22 to military radios to all electrical ships to PowerPoints. That’s not true. I imply, I do numerous PowerPoint shows, however I used to be additionally a part of the strategic planning that helped construct the ARIES analysis platform.

Earlier than we get to ARIES, how did you go from the U.S. Navy to NREL?

I used to be additionally a school member at Florida State College at the moment. After I left my protection job and took my first job in academia, my wage dropped by 30%. Most individuals informed me that I’m loopy doing that. However I don’t need to depart my profession having constructed 400 F-22s or 10,000 military radios. I need to depart a legacy of one thing and make a distinction in the neighborhood.

I spent two years supporting the U.S. Division of Vitality’s Water Energy Applied sciences Workplace, after which I went to Idaho Nationwide Laboratory for 5 years. After I heard NREL was constructing ARIES, that was my ardour, so I dropped every little thing, and right here I’m.

Excellent transition. Now, let’s speak about ARIES. What’s it?

ARIES integrates software program and {hardware} to assist us perceive how clear vitality applied sciences — like renewable vitality gadgets, batteries, electrical autos, hydrogen, and buildings — will work collectively in a future carbon-free grid. No one has finished this earlier than. No one has paired a whole bunch of gadgets. And right here, we’re speaking about 1000’s of gadgets at scale.

1000’s! And what issues are you making an attempt to unravel with ARIES?

We’re making an attempt to grasp next-generation issues that we are able to’t clear up by means of conventional classical computing or modeling.

For instance, do we’ve sufficient energy for electrical autos in case of an emergency? Right now, we all know the place the gasoline stations are. I’m in Tallahassee, Florida, proper now. If a hurricane is available in and there’s an evacuation mandate, folks understand how they’re going to evacuate. If all of us are utilizing electrical autos, how is that going to work?

So, when uncommon occasions occur, how will we mitigate them? That requires a bit extra integration between applied sciences, together with cell telephones, electrical autos, satellites, emergency response programs, and constructing administration programs.

Hovsapian could also be utilizing quantum computing to unravel future crises, however he’s additionally investigating an imminent quantum disaster: code breaking. “Some banks are searching for postquantum encryptions,” Hovsapian mentioned. “In the event that they need to validate their encryption in our analysis platform, we are able to do this.” Picture by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

I additionally heard, to handle even greater, national-scale challenges, you’re constructing a SuperLab that may must emulate communication between 1000’s of various gadgets, proper?

The challenges that we’re dealing with as a nation are going to be a lot, a lot greater than one or two labs can sort out. The SuperLab ties educational and nationwide laboratories collectively, integrating not solely folks but in addition sources to reply these large questions. We already demonstrated connecting two laboratories — Pacific Northwest Nationwide Laboratory and Idaho Nationwide Laboratory. Our purpose is to attach seven laboratories and 10,000 gadgets to handle a big nationwide occasion. That’s known as SuperLab 2.0.

Have you ever determined which nationwide occasion you would possibly deal with?

No. But it surely needs to be a major, uncommon occasion, like a Hurricane Katrina, the Maui wildfires, or the 2021 Texas freeze.

Our goal is to create a real-world occasion and setting, utilizing precise {hardware} and numerous grid property — like automation controls, vitality storage programs, batteries, and wind generators — which lets us discover how we are able to deal with these uncommon occasions.

Attention-grabbing. However that is the Manufacturing Masterminds collection, so how does all this relate to manufacturing?

All these applied sciences are next-generation gadgets that we’re constructing at this time. We’d like to consider methods to make cell telephones that may speak to climate stations and broadcast communications. 5G is an effective instance. Folks outdoors america are growing higher 5G applied sciences than we’re. That’s an indication that our superior manufacturing shouldn’t be on par with what we’d like at this time.

Gotcha. Are there different methods america’ manufacturing business may outpace opponents?

Everyone’s speaking about quantum computing. Now, we’re tying quantum computing to our real-time simulation work that we’re doing at ARIES (known as quantum within the loop). Hopefully, it will make it simpler and sooner for researchers to undertake quantum computing to unravel next-generation energy and vitality system challenges.

So, would the quantum computer systems can help you run sooner simulations?

It will permit us to establish patterns a lot, a lot sooner.

So, let’s say you take a look at the state of cost of electrical autos throughout a hurricane. With quantum computing, you’ll be able to rapidly discover potential bottlenecks. That method, you’ll be able to subject more practical evacuation notices. You can direct folks to completely different routes and inform some to attend for an hour or two or cost at residence X variety of occasions earlier than they go, so that you don’t have folks stranded on the way in which with a hurricane coming in.

What recommendation would you give to those that would possibly need to comply with in your footsteps and assist clear up these future crises?

Completely don’t comply with in my footsteps. Simply take a look at the massive image and see what you are able to do otherwise. It’s OK to be unsuitable, be taught from errors, and do one thing higher the following time.

Thinking about constructing a clear vitality future? Learn different Q&As from NREL researchers in superior manufacturing, and browse open positions to see what it’s wish to work at NREL.

By Caitlin McDermott-Murphy. Article from NREL.

 


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