BCIT’s Smart Microgrid Project Research Activities Get a Power Surge from EE Co-op Students

Student researchers Jocelyn Wu and Chris Morrissey
The SMART Microgrid Applied Research Team recruited two co-op students from BCIT’s Electrical and Computer Engineering program to be part of BCIT’s Smart Microgrid research project in the summer of 2009. Through the Smart Microgrid project, BCIT is developing a smart grid test bed on BCIT’s Burnaby campus to allow researchers and utilities to experiment and demonstrate their leading-edge technologies and solutions.

The co-op placement provides the students with an excellent learning opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and technology, and at the same time apply what they have learned in classroom.
As part of this project, SMART has involved the students in the development of the Energy Management System (EMS) project. The students have researched various ways that the end devices such as thermostats and power meters can be controlled by the EMS and how they can communicate with each other.
The students have been developing testing methods for Zigbee, an open wireless communication technology standard, which allows interoperability. By using Zigbee, different sensors set up in the home environment can be enabled to communicate to the EMS. Therefore, the consumer can plan and optimize energy savings. One of the smart sensors that the students are working on is a Zigbee-enabled thermostat.
Another major student undertaking has been working with the Tweet-A-Watt. This device allows users to analyze the power usage of various appliances in real-time. The students are looking into ZigBee enabling a typical watt meter so that it can communicate these measurements to the EMS, and also allow for remote on/off control the device that the watt meter is taking measurements from.
They have participated in department meetings, project planning sessions, and delivered presentations on their research. The students also participated in cross departmental projects including analysis and circuit building with MAKE+.