Riding the waves

Next June, Juliana Telles ‘15 will step off a plane on the charming island of Bermuda. On the surface, it might seem like the beginning of an epic vacation to celebrate a successful college career.

But there will be no seaside lounging on the agenda for Juliana and her travel companions, no charter fishing to speak of—not even close.

Instead, Telles and three other Lehigh students will be mentoring almost 20 high school students for a week at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS).

The trip is part of an endeavor by faculty members and students to gain a better understanding of how electrical power can be generated by the ceaseless motion of the waves in the oceans.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Lehigh a nearly $1 million grant to optimize ocean wave energy for conversion into usable electricity. The grant includes funding to write a curriculum for high school students to take part in the BIOS program and to develop an exhibit about capturing ocean-wave energy for the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown.

“Our research will focus on methods of enhancing the reliability and efficiency of groups of ocean wave energy conversion devices, known as wave farms,” says Larry Snyder, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering and a co-principal investigator on the project. “Our goal is to help determine how viable wave farms are in harnessing ocean wave energy.”

Shalinee Kishore, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the project’s principal investigator, says the project is one of many emerging at Lehigh seeking smarter, greener ways to generate electrical power.

All of the investigators on the project, including Kishore and Snyder, as well as Rick Blum (professor of electrical and computer engineering), Arindam Banerjee (assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics), and Alberto Lamadrid (assistant professor of economics), are affiliated with Lehigh’s Integrated Networks for Electricity (INE) research cluster.

“We also participate in the emerging Power from Ocean, Rivers, and Tides (PORT) Lab at Lehigh studying the design, operation, and integration of marine hydrokinetic systems,” says Kishore. “Although we come at the issue from many different perspectives, we all believe in leveraging advances in communications and information technology to improve global energy distribution and consumption.”

“Advanced software, computer architecture, sensing devices and other technological breakthroughs will one day transform our global power infrastructure into smart grids that provide electricity more efficiently, cleanly and securely,” she says.

“Specifically, we intend for this project to yield models, algorithms, control strategies, and system architectures that will improve the output power of wave farms, reduce their cost of operation, maximize their environmental benefits, and provide guidance for farm operators in pursuing market opportunities.”

The $900,000 NSF grant runs from January 2015 through 2018.

Greatest. Field Trip. Ever.

An important goal of the Lehigh project is to broaden understanding of the technical and environmental aspects of wave energy among a new generation of engineers and scientists, as well as the general public.

Mark Orrs, director of Lehigh’s Sustainable Development program, helped design and develop this side of the project, and enlisted the aid of Telles and her cohorts.

“Our campus’ strong ties to BIOS make it a natural choice for such a project,” says Orrs. “Lehigh alumnus James Stanard ‘70 is a BIOS trustee, and he helped establish an ongoing connection with them a number of years ago.”

The Lehigh SusDev team is designing a weeklong course on ocean wave energy that will be co-taught by representatives from BIOS and from Eccosolution, a renewable energy company. At the same time, the team is developing recruiting and admissions materials. Besides Telles, the other students supporting the effort are Kelsey Briel, an economics major, John Kalafut (business information systems) and Michael Celente (Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences, or IDEAS). All are members of the Class of 2016.

“This is a very exciting project on a number of fronts,” says Telles, a chemical engineering major who has served as a campus tour guide and as president of Lehigh’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

“We’ve put together a curriculum plan and we’re working with our faculty and the BIOS team to develop it into a program that will be nothing short of life-changing for the high school kids who get involved. Even if it weren’t taking place on a tropical island, we’re confident this will shape up to be the greatest field trip ever for the high-school kids lucky enough to participate.”

Upon their return from Bermuda, the team will work with staff members at the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown to design an interactive, hands-on exhibit covering the core of the team’s ocean energy research. The exhibit will be installed at the Da Vinci center in 2015 to align with the center’s planned “Year of the Planet” theme.

So what is Telles looking forward to most on the trip, besides the gorgeous Bermuda weather?

“I can’t wait to see how the high school kids absorb everything,” she says, “and I’m psyched to be learning about how to create all of this.

“I’m an engineering student, so I haven’t encountered much in the way of curriculum design, communications, or managing people and groups. But these are all inextricably linked in this effort, and I’m learning so much about the steps that it takes to pull something like this together.

“I’m excited to be part of it.”


By Aislinn Stohecker ‘18

Aislinn Strohecker is a writer with the Dean’s Office of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.



Photo by Mikaila Skaroff '17