A team of graduate students working with Associate Professor Oumar Barry won second place in the 2022 EnergyTech University Prize National competition sponsored by the Office of Technology Transitions at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The team’s project was continuing development of a self-powered autonomous robot (SPAR) for monitoring power lines, a research project initiated from an NSF CAREER award earned by Barry in 2020.

Team members Andrew Choi and Jimmy Wang competed in a national pitch event in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University's Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation's Energy Week. Choi and Wang took second place out of nine total teams selected as 2022 prize winners.

Power lines frequently suffer from premature failure caused by wind-induced vibrations, vegetation encroachment, and other hazards. The electric power industry is in urgent need of a cost-effective and sustainable power line maintenance solution to uphold public safety and prevent considerable economic loss, which reaches tens of billions each year.

The SPAR designed by Barry’s lab combines vibration control with condition monitoring of power lines, and is engineered for long duty cycles. Its design is lightweight, compact, energy-efficient, and cost-effective and could be deployed widely for the protection of transmission lines that span hundreds of thousands of miles across the country.

The project is ongoing work from an NSF CAREER award earned by Barry in 2020.

The EnergyTech University Prize is a collegiate competition challenging multidisciplinary student teams to develop and present a business plan that leverages DOE national laboratory-developed and other high-potential energy technologies.