Purdue Calumet to advance wind energy education with $749,853 federal grant

Purdue University Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation has received a $749,853 federal grant to advance wind energy education.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the three-year, Funding for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) grant. It will support the project, “Mixed Reality Simulators for Wind Energy Education.” Five such simulators will be developed to train university students and professionals about wind energy. The grant is in response to the U.S. Department of Energy’s “20% Wind Energy by 2030” initiative to advance more efficient and diversified energy use nationally.

Mixed reality simulators refer to a combination of computer-generated and real world elements. By developing simulators that function in a variety of contexts, students and professionals can learn about wind energy and relevant technical systems within a simulated wind turbine, virtual reality environment. Computer-generated elements also can augment real world training.

Purdue Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) combines advanced simulation techniques and 3-dimensional visualization with virtual reality and augmented reality technologies to address industrial- and environmental-related challenges.

“Computer visualization is a powerful and innovative tool for increasing knowledge about wind energy,” Purdue Calumet Chancellor Howard Cohen said. “Thanks to the support of the Department of Education, Purdue Calumet is positioned to advance knowledge and understanding in response to this important national priority.”

More specifically, the grant will support a 3-D Virtual Wind Turbine Simulator that will allow interaction with all major systems within a wind turbine. Other simulators will be developed for wind energy system maintenance and as a template for future simulators used by wind energy educators and professionals. Related curricular materials will be prepared to accompany each simulator for operational and maintenance training.

“This grant provides great opportunities for our students to work on real world projects to address some of the most important problems facing the world today,” Purdue Calumet Professor, Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and CIVS and Project Director Chenn Zhou said. “Students will be directly involved in the development of the simulators for wind energy training and will gain experience working on cutting edge mixed reality technologies. Additionally, a portion of the materials developed will be implemented in the PUC wind energy curriculum.”

She added that the simulators will be available for use by universities, community colleges and industry for “training a critically needed workforce, as well as promoting awareness of green energy.”

Implementation of the grant begins Jan. 1.

“Receiving such a grant is an endorsement of PUC’s competitive edge in the field of modeling, simulation and visualization,” Purdue Calumet Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies Niaz Latif said. “In addition, it shows recognition of our faculty expertise, particularly that of Dr. Zhou, whose work has been recognized at national and international levels. This project will help students learn wind energy engineering/technology in an innovative way.”

Joining Zhou on the interdisciplinary project team are Purdue Calumet Assistant Professor of Cognitive Psychology Phuong Do, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Xiuling Wang, CIVS Senior Research Scientist John Moreland, Mechanical Engineering Research Engineer Bin Wu and CIVS Business Development and Outreach Administrator Doreen Gonzalez-Gaboyan.