By Melissae Fellet
For Edgardo Desarden Carrero, a student in the newly created electrical engineering doctorate program at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, his two summers working in resilient energy systems research at Sandia National Laboratories was his first internship. He is an unusual student in that he is also a professor of electrical engineering technology at the University of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla.
“I’ve been amazed at all the opportunities here to access equipment and interact with engineers who have a variety of backgrounds,” Desarden Carrero said.
The Consortium for Integrating Energy Systems in Engineering and Science Education, CIESESE, internship program, sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration, connects engineering students from five Hispanic-serving institutions, including UPRM, with research at Sandia and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The program has recently been extended through next summer.
From 2017 to 2019, 41 students have worked in labs around Sandia, in departments including geomechanics and energy systems. Often, their work at Sandia becomes the focus of their graduate research and an opportunity for long-lasting relationships. So far, 10 students have become year-round interns at Sandia.
“For us, this program is critical to broaden our reach in terms of where we can get well educated students and Hispanic engineers,” said Tito Bonano, a senior manager at Sandia who helped forge the partnership with UPRM. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico, went to school at UPRM and is now a member of the industrial advisory board of the university’s engineering school.
According to the American Society for Engineering Education, UPRM awarded 528 undergraduate engineering degrees in 2017, second in the United States in terms of graduating Hispanic engineers. An agreement between Sandia and UPRM under development will ensure the institutions can continue to collaborate on projects.
“Our students are the promise of the present and the future,” said UPRM Chancellor Agustín Rullán-Toro. “We are always very proud to say they are the best of the best. They are talented young people eager to learn more. They have immense creative abilities and the passion to move forward. That’s why the combination of these two elements: the opportunities Sandia provides, plus the willingness of our students, has been a perfect recipe for success.”
Simplifying equipment to test inverter islanding
While at Sandia last year, Desarden Carrero met Sigifredo Gonzalez, an electrical engineer in the Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory. Gonzalez introduced Desarden Carrero to the concept of islanding, a topic that is now the focus of his doctoral research.
Islanding happens when a power system, such as solar panels or a microgrid, continues to provide energy even when disconnected from the main electrical grid.
Islanded systems are dangerous to utility workers who are not expecting live wires during repairs, and they also pose safety risks when power returns to the main grid.
To address this problem, electrical engineers want the inverter, the component that transforms direct current produced by some islanded systems to alternating current on the grid, to detect a power outage and disconnect itself. Desarden Carrero is developing a virtual tool to test whether the inverter’s software to detect unintentional islanding complies with industry standards.