Nebraska Industrial Assessment Center (NIAC)
NIAC Director Bob Williams and student worker Brittlin Hoge join us to talk about how they are helping local businesses save big money from their energy assessments while Nebraska Engineering students also gain valuable field experience. Go Big Red!
icon search Searchable Transcript
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
[00:00:01.970]Welcome the Complete Engineering Podcast,
[00:00:04.430]brought to you by the College of Engineering.
[00:00:06.610]We are Nebraska, where we build complete engineers
[00:00:09.790]with the technical and non-technical skills
[00:00:11.910]to do big things.
[00:00:13.410]Visit us at engineering.unl.edu.
[00:00:18.775]Welcome to another episode of the Complete Engineer
[00:00:21.380]Podcast, brought to by the University of Nebraska,
[00:00:23.910]College of Engineering.
[00:00:25.060]I'm Matt Honke.
[00:00:26.070]And I'm Carl Vogel.
[00:00:27.210]And today we're joined by Bob Williams
[00:00:29.300]and Britlin Hogue with the Nebraska
[00:00:31.890]Industrial Assessment Center.
[00:00:33.620]Bob is a associate professor of mechanical
[00:00:35.970]and materials engineering and is the director
[00:00:38.420]of the Nebraska Industrial Assessment Center.
[00:00:40.570]It was established in 2016 on a grant
[00:00:42.700]from the Department of Energy.
[00:00:44.190]Britlin is a senior chemical engineering major
[00:00:47.360]with a minor in international engineering,
[00:00:49.640]and she works at the Nebraska Industrial Assessment Center
[00:00:52.760]and has for the last two years,
[00:00:54.520]also, a member of our engineering student advisory board.
[00:00:57.800]So Bob, let's start with telling us a little bit
[00:01:00.160]about the history of the IAC, how it began,
[00:01:03.000]and what is the Department of Energy looking to solve
[00:01:05.660]or improve upon with these regional IACs?
[00:01:08.620]The IAC program started in the Department of Energy
[00:01:11.300]about 40 years ago, although it's had different names
[00:01:14.090]through the years, and the idea is that DOE funds
[00:01:17.290]universities to train teams of students and staff
[00:01:20.290]to go out and provide no cost energy
[00:01:22.980]and cost saving assessments to small
[00:01:25.010]to medium sized manufacturers in the region.
[00:01:27.230]And the way we got involved here is that I've been involved
[00:01:30.060]along with my partner, Bruce Dvorak from civil engineering
[00:01:32.827]and BSE who started the Partners in Pollution Prevention
[00:01:36.540]program about 1997.
[00:01:38.750]He asked me to join him about six
[00:01:40.240]or seven years ago to oversee the industrial
[00:01:42.640]and the manufacturing summer projects.
[00:01:45.090]We had an idea at that time to apply for a DOE grant
[00:01:48.850]the next time it become available.
[00:01:50.600]We wrote the proposal in the spring of 2016.
[00:01:53.450]Found out in August that we were gonna be funded
[00:01:56.490]and we started operation in the fall of that year.
[00:01:59.220]We did our first assessment in the winter of 2017.
[00:02:03.420]We've since done about 32 assessments in the greater region.
[00:02:07.600]Most IACs operate in about 150 to 200 mile radius.
[00:02:11.930]We have the ability to go much further.
[00:02:13.970]With the assessments that have been done under the IAC
[00:02:16.250]program, the average annual savings to each client
[00:02:20.130]is about $136,000.
[00:02:23.083]So, saving 136,000 out of a top end bill of two and a half
[00:02:27.280]million is a pretty significant chunk of money.
[00:02:30.050]Yes, it is, and there are also other benefits
[00:02:32.560]to the company as well.
[00:02:33.840]We do some education in energy efficiency.
[00:02:36.570]We're also training students that may become
[00:02:38.390]their future employees.
[00:02:39.950]Along that line, (mumbles) ask Britlin here,
[00:02:42.330]how did you become involved, and what is it exactly
[00:02:45.070]you do in your role with the NIAC?
[00:02:47.450]So, I first heard about the Partners in Pollution
[00:02:51.130]Prevention, or P3 program, along with the NIAC
[00:02:55.440]about two years ago when I was taking a course.
[00:02:58.950]It was taught up Dr. Bruce Dvorak,
[00:03:01.240]and so he made a pitch to all the students in his class
[00:03:05.230]saying the P3 program, the applications are now live.
[00:03:09.470]If you want to apply it's a really great thing.
[00:03:11.900]So, that was the first time I was really exposed
[00:03:14.260]to the work that the NIAC was doing.
[00:03:16.580]After that summer, Dr. Dvorak and Dr. Williams asked
[00:03:20.800]if I would like to join the NIAC team,
[00:03:23.580]and so, I accepted, and that's how I got started.
[00:03:26.390]What I do is I will be one of many team members
[00:03:31.650]that we choose to go on each assessment,
[00:03:34.220]and I will go with that group,
[00:03:36.200]and we will take a look at the, just the process
[00:03:40.830]that the company is doing, all the different aspects of it,
[00:03:43.910]and we will try to identify areas where they can
[00:03:47.720]save energy and therefore save money.
[00:03:50.250]Just to add a little bit to that, from the day
[00:03:52.523]that we perform the assessment we have 60 days to finish
[00:03:56.240]the technical report.
[00:03:57.370]We upload that to the field management office at Rutgers.
[00:04:00.610]They do a little bit of a quality check.
[00:04:02.350]Once they have approved it,
[00:04:03.560]then we give a copy to the company.
[00:04:05.690]The NIAC is also a partnership with the utilities
[00:04:08.670]and state agencies and other groups.
[00:04:10.390]Bob, why is this beneficial for your group
[00:04:12.260]to be a part of this work?
[00:04:13.800]It's very important for us to work with the utilities
[00:04:16.330]or the state agencies.
[00:04:17.620]For example, on the utility side we worked very closely
[00:04:20.400]with LES, NPPD.
[00:04:22.380]We've recently reached out to OPPD and also Black Hills.
[00:04:25.970]In the case of LES they provide us help
[00:04:28.440]when we go do an assessment.
[00:04:29.810]They have referred some of their clients to us.
[00:04:32.750]If our students like Britlin when they're analyzing
[00:04:35.410]the energy bills have a question about whether
[00:04:37.980]it's the electricity rate, whether it's the demand charges,
[00:04:41.340]we can reach out to LES.
[00:04:43.110]They can provide us more detailed information,
[00:04:45.650]which helps us do a better job
[00:04:47.440]of making the recommendations.
[00:04:49.590]Some of the agencies and the utilities have even gone out
[00:04:52.950]on assessments with us.
[00:04:54.240]They can help us identify rebate and incentive programs
[00:04:57.790]which make our recommendations for implementation
[00:05:00.920]even more cost effective.
[00:05:02.570]We also work closely with groups like the Nebraska
[00:05:06.130]State Energy Office, the Nebraska Department
[00:05:08.260]of Environmental Quality.
[00:05:09.250]Again, they help get the word out.
[00:05:10.840]They answer technical questions
[00:05:12.160]that our students might have.
[00:05:13.480]Finally we work with the Nebraska
[00:05:15.580]Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
[00:05:17.610]One of their main goals is to provide some services
[00:05:20.390]to Nebraska manufacturers.
[00:05:22.230]In some cases, we can do things that maybe
[00:05:24.930]they don't provide, and vice versa.
[00:05:27.340]We may go in and do an assessment at a company
[00:05:30.440]and make a recommendation.
[00:05:32.060]We can then turn that over to MEP
[00:05:34.870]and they can follow up and contact the client
[00:05:37.080]about providing some follow up services.
[00:05:39.810]You've mentioned before you've done 32 assessments--
To this point.
[00:05:43.278]What kind of feedback are you getting from these companies
[00:05:46.020]that you've assessed, and how has the work been benefiting
[00:05:48.770]not only those companies, but the people
[00:05:50.540]of the state in general?
[00:05:52.220]Since our two and a half years in operation,
[00:05:54.790]our implementation rate is close to 60%.
[00:05:57.610]We're very proud of that.
[00:05:58.450]So, that's the companies implementing about 60%
[00:06:01.130]of what you recommend.
[00:06:02.050]That's correct, and we verify that by performing
[00:06:05.610]an implementation survey nine to 10 months
[00:06:08.470]after the date of the assessment.
[00:06:10.610]That's one of the things that we're required to do
[00:06:12.490]by our grant with DOE.
[00:06:14.430]We typically have the lead student contact the company
[00:06:17.700]and ask them whether or not they've implemented those.
[00:06:20.440]If they have, did they see the cost savings
[00:06:22.460]that we estimated?
[00:06:23.880]It helps us to perform our job better,
[00:06:26.290]part of our continuous improvement.
[00:06:27.970]We also ask them if some of our recommendations have
[00:06:31.300]resulted in some spinoff of ideas,
[00:06:33.390]either within their plant or maybe within another plant
[00:06:36.070]within their overall corporation.
[00:06:38.230]What are some of the businesses that graduates
[00:06:40.610]from the NIAC have gone on to to work for?
[00:06:43.930]We've had a student recently take a job with Kawasaki,
[00:06:47.140]General Dynamics, Lincoln Industries,
[00:06:49.210]and that's just local.
[00:06:50.150]We've had a couple go on to graduate school.
[00:06:52.130]We had one student move out of state to work
[00:06:54.760]for a software company.
[00:06:56.200]It's common for them to probably get a few opportunities
[00:06:59.410]per month based on their experience with the IAC.
[00:07:01.860]Now, Britlin, you've had some experience interning
[00:07:04.310]with the Nebraska Energy Office, and now you've worked
[00:07:07.460]with the NIAC.
[00:07:08.450]How's that preparing you for your career,
[00:07:11.070]and what is it you're looking to do for a career?
[00:07:13.800]I'm gonna be working as a process engineer
[00:07:16.740]with Black & Veatch in Kansas City.
[00:07:19.010]Being a part of the NIAC, one, has given me real problems
[00:07:23.400]working with real people who are running
[00:07:26.030]their own companies.
[00:07:27.470]It's really much more realistic of what it's going to be
[00:07:30.330]like when you are going to be working for a company.
[00:07:34.520]You're going to be a part of the team working
[00:07:36.690]on a real problem, but there's gonna be a whole bunch
[00:07:39.410]of different skill sets that are all brought to the table.
[00:07:42.370]So, that's really helped me out
[00:07:44.400]with preparing for my future job.
[00:07:47.261]I believe Bob had mentioned earlier that you had some
[00:07:49.460]experience being a team leader on some of these assessments.
[00:07:52.330]How has that work as a team leader given you
[00:07:55.930]some experience that you're gonna need?
[00:07:57.880]Being a team leader is a little bit different,
[00:08:00.370]because although you are also maybe creating
[00:08:04.360]an assessment recommendation for the report,
[00:08:06.980]you are contacting your team members to see where they are,
[00:08:11.410]if they need any more information.
[00:08:13.210]You are sort of the gateway.
[00:08:15.080]If they have any questions for the company
[00:08:17.570]they bring those questions to you,
[00:08:19.250]and then you can contact the company.
[00:08:21.560]So, really it's been a great experience being a leader
[00:08:25.350]and being able to really manage a team well.
[00:08:29.260]Being a part of the NIAC was really the first time
[00:08:31.730]I had ever had any sort of leadership experience like that.
[00:08:35.360]And to follow up on what Britlin said,
[00:08:37.210]another benefit for our students is that they get
[00:08:39.410]a chance hands on to go out into the factory floor
[00:08:43.180]and take measurements with some pretty interesting
[00:08:45.330]and sophisticated equipment.
[00:08:46.550]We have a FLIR thermal imaging camera,
[00:08:48.370]which we take with us.
[00:08:49.280]We have an ultrasonic leak detector, light meters,
[00:08:52.161]other types of data loggers, and measuring equipment
[00:08:55.610]that the students have a chance to use and then apply
[00:08:58.430]in a real world setting.
[00:09:00.260]At my house, I've had NPPD come there
[00:09:02.920]and they have the little Ghostbuster gun
[00:09:04.630]that tells me where air is coming through, you know,
[00:09:07.610]around doors and windows and through even outlets.
[00:09:10.260]Do you guys get into that kind of depth of how energy
[00:09:13.440]efficiency can save--
[00:09:14.820]We can, yes we can.
[00:09:16.110]I actually at the wastewater treatment facility
[00:09:19.070]I'm currently working on a recommendation exactly for that
[00:09:22.590]actually because some of their doors,
[00:09:24.480]they just don't shut exactly right.
[00:09:27.197]Just looking at it you can see, oh, there's the snow outside
[00:09:29.990]and you can hold the Ghostbusters gun at it,
[00:09:32.880]and see this is the temperature in between the door
[00:09:36.100]where the air is coming in and this is the temperature
[00:09:38.770]of the room.
[00:09:39.810]And so then you can see the difference in temperatures
[00:09:42.290]and try to estimate if you were to get some sort
[00:09:44.820]of rubber paneling that you could just stick on there
[00:09:47.840]to try to seal that up how much could you save.
[00:09:52.013]I mean, I've seen it just in our own household
[00:09:54.040]the savings that we've had.
[00:09:55.100]To transfer that to an industry I can see where
[00:09:57.850]you can come up with these $140,000 worth of savings,
[00:10:01.720]that I could really, it makes a lot of sense.
[00:10:04.200]And the nice thing about our thermal imaging camera is
[00:10:06.420]it gives us the thermal image and simultaneously stores
[00:10:09.040]a nice digital image so that we can match those up exactly,
[00:10:12.360]put that in the report.
[00:10:13.650]So, there's the FLIR thermal imaging camera--
[00:10:16.680]FLIR is the brand name.
[00:10:17.560]Okay, not the Ghostbuster camera (mumbles).
[00:10:21.370]So, what you guys see when you go out into these industries,
[00:10:24.450]that knowledge that you're taking back,
[00:10:26.300]that finds its way into courses then potentially
[00:10:28.760]and changes some of the curriculum
[00:10:30.340]and how we teach our students?
[00:10:32.110]Absolutely, the class that we use to train our P3 and IAC
[00:10:36.340]students, we've re-ramped that curriculum.
[00:10:39.010]We've brought in some of our partners to help
[00:10:41.870]teach some of that material.
[00:10:43.300]We've shared our experiences with the students.
[00:10:45.790]It's been very valuable, but also we had brought in
[00:10:48.750]that knowledge into almost every course that we teach,
[00:10:51.840]and that has broad impact on a range of students from,
[00:10:54.890]mostly from engineering, but a few
[00:10:56.640]from outside engineering as well.
[00:10:58.350]We also have some energy service companies that are
[00:11:01.130]our partners and they will come in and help
[00:11:04.790]train our students in things like boilers,
[00:11:07.970]cooling towers, lighting.
[00:11:10.330]Lighting is a good example because the technology
[00:11:12.480]is changing so fast.
[00:11:14.200]So, we have a lighting partner here in town,
[00:11:16.840]IC Energy Solutions, and they come
[00:11:18.830]and they train our students.
[00:11:20.270]They will even provide technical support to our students
[00:11:22.640]as they're working on their assessment recommendations.
[00:11:25.860]Well, this is the Complete Engineering Podcast,
[00:11:28.080]and that's in reference the Complete Engineer Initiative
[00:11:30.750]that we have here at the University of Nebraska.
[00:11:32.750]The six major tenants of the Complete Engineer Initiative
[00:11:35.750]are intercultural appreciation, leadership, team work,
[00:11:38.920]self-management, service and civic responsibility,
[00:11:41.940]and engineering ethics.
[00:11:43.260]What are some of the skills you've learned
[00:11:44.550]from the NIAC and your time there that have helped
[00:11:47.370]make you a more complete engineer?
[00:11:49.090]The leadership aspect of it definitely has really helped
[00:11:52.350]me become more of a complete engineer.
[00:11:55.330]Being able to step into those leadership positions
[00:11:58.540]for the first time for me has really formed me
[00:12:01.650]into a better student going into my labs
[00:12:05.104]and my design classes.
[00:12:08.140]That has really helped with making me a better team member,
[00:12:11.700]because I have been really held to a high standard
[00:12:14.640]with the NIAC because it is work and you are working
[00:12:17.430]with real clients and your teammates depend on you.
[00:12:20.170]And so, getting things in on time and really doing
[00:12:23.470]quality work, that has really made me a better team member.
[00:12:27.800]And Bob, you've mentioned Bruce Dvorak several times,
[00:12:30.880]and he's with civil engineering.
[00:12:31.980]You're with mechanical engineering.
[00:12:33.480]That cross-discipline work, I mean, that's something
[00:12:35.820]that we're seeing more and more of in engineering.
[00:12:37.850]I mean, how much does that play a role in the success
[00:12:40.470]of a group like this?
[00:12:42.228]That's a huge part of the success.
[00:12:44.290]Bruce and I have worked together closely
[00:12:46.210]for the last six or seven years.
[00:12:48.030]We are co-principal investigators on more than a dozen
[00:12:51.550]grants in that time, both federal grants
[00:12:53.970]and also from the state agencies.
[00:12:55.710]I have helped support some
[00:12:57.010]of his graduate students, vice versa.
[00:12:59.650]He and his grants have helped support some of my students.
[00:13:02.033]I mean, a great relationship, so we work together
[00:13:04.920]very closely and I think it's been
[00:13:06.500]a very beneficial relationship for the whole college.
[00:13:09.760]We're a little more than two and a half years into this
[00:13:13.160]NIAC and you've been doing very good work so far.
[00:13:15.870]What is the future for the NIAC?
[00:13:18.470]Hopefully things at the federal level will be such that
[00:13:21.580]the program will continue to receive funding
[00:13:24.010]and we can expand on our operations
[00:13:26.360]and bring more students onboard.
[00:13:28.380]I don't know if I mentioned it before,
[00:13:29.980]but we've been to five states so far.
[00:13:32.800]We also plan to work with some of the other IACs
[00:13:36.187]in the region and maybe do some joint assessments.
[00:13:38.820]We've talked to the folks down at Oklahoma State
[00:13:41.790]about doing some joint assessments.
[00:13:44.863]There's so much things that you guys are learning
[00:13:46.460]each time you go out there to these industries.
[00:13:48.720]I'll start with you Britlin.
[00:13:49.553]When you come home, do you act differently
[00:13:52.116]or do things differently around the house?
[00:13:54.260]Do you check things that you never
[00:13:55.700]would have checked before?
[00:13:56.860]Oh yeah, definitely.
[00:13:58.260]I'm always the one of my roommates just turning off lights
[00:14:01.580]and turning down the thermostat and we've noticed that
[00:14:04.690]in companies as well that if we just do an assessment
[00:14:07.330]even if they don't implement any recommendations
[00:14:10.190]they are more cognizant of the ways that they are using
[00:14:13.550]energy and so their energy usage will go down,
[00:14:16.340]because just 'cause they're thinking more about it.
[00:14:18.427]And Bob, how about you?
[00:14:19.920]Well, I happen to live in Seward,
[00:14:21.270]and we get one bill that comes from the city that includes
[00:14:24.860]electricity, water, sewage, all on the same bill.
[00:14:28.350]So, yes, I've been looking at that more closely,
[00:14:31.010]trying to do more things, whether it's just in recycling
[00:14:33.970]and things like that, even in the office, not just at home.
[00:14:36.910]I keep track of all of my, you know, recycled bottles
[00:14:40.150]and cans and make sure I put them in the receptacles
[00:14:42.280]that we have here in the college.
[00:14:43.760]It's great working with co-workers who are so passionate
[00:14:47.210]about being the environment because that's really
[00:14:48.810]what we're doing.
[00:14:49.670]We're reducing energy and we're reducing money
[00:14:52.440]for the companies, which we are, but what we're really doing
[00:14:55.440]is we're trying to save the environment,
[00:14:58.450]one kilowatt hour at a time.
[00:15:00.750]We're trying to reduce the energy usage
[00:15:03.490]and reduce the carbon emissions into the air,
[00:15:06.730]and so it's really inspiring to work with co-workers
[00:15:09.030]who believe in that and work under professors
[00:15:11.030]who believe in that, but also going to these companies
[00:15:14.140]and hearing about their leadership.
[00:15:16.640]They really love the idea that, oh, even if the payback
[00:15:19.740]period is really large and it's not gonna save
[00:15:22.690]all that much in money we really want to do it
[00:15:25.780]because it's gonna save a lot of energy,
[00:15:27.250]and that's what's important to them.
[00:15:28.890]So, it's really great meeting all these people
[00:15:31.370]who also are really passionate about that.
[00:15:34.120]So, you can save money and do the right thing
[00:15:35.533]all at the same time.
[00:15:40.160]Dog or cat?
[00:15:42.210]Who is your favorite superhero?
[00:15:44.543]Favorite tailgating food?
[00:15:46.820]Have you ever used a slide rule?
[00:15:49.493]First video game you owned?
[00:15:51.080]Probably Wii Fit.
[00:15:53.490]Favorite musical genre?
[00:15:56.170]What was your favorite toy growing up?
[00:15:58.130]I liked cards, like a nerd.
[00:16:01.600]If you could time travel to when would you go?
[00:16:04.340]The old West.
[00:16:05.540]On a scale of one to 10 how strict were your parents?
[00:16:09.860]Do you know how to run a VCR?
[00:16:11.703]I don't have a VCR anymore.
[00:16:14.870]Chocolate or vanilla?
[00:16:16.933]Saturday or Sunday?
[00:16:19.493]What's your pet peeve?
[00:16:21.181]I don't like when people slurp their drinks.
[00:16:25.030]Pancakes or waffles?
[00:16:27.660]And Herbie Husker or Little Red?
[00:16:31.040]Well, we want to thank Bob Williams and Britlin Hogue
[00:16:33.710]again for joining us from
[00:16:35.300]the Nebraska Industrial Assessment Center.
[00:16:37.410]You can contact them at engineering.unl.edu/iac.
[00:16:42.980]By saving money, you can do the right thing,
[00:16:45.200]and that is something that I think
[00:16:46.870]we've all learned here today.
[00:16:48.783]Thank you for having us, and we hope to hear
[00:16:50.170]from many of the companies in the area
[00:16:52.400]and see if we can't set up an assessment.
[00:16:58.950]Thank you for listening
[00:16:59.820]to the Complete Engineering Podcast.
[00:17:01.880]For more information, visit us at engineering.unl.edu.
Log in to post comments