Governance and Adaptive Regulation of Transformational Technologies in Transportation

August 2017 – May 2018

As a sophomore at Duke, I had the unique opportunity to collaborate with faculty members, as well as PhD, graduate and undergraduate students on a yearlong research project facilitated by the Bass Connections Program.

With autonomous vehicles moving closer to joining our roadways in substantial numbers, state and federal governments are considering how to develop safety regulations for this new technology. North Carolina is one of ten states to have a federally-recognized proving ground for testing autonomous vehicles, located on 13 miles of Interstate 540 in Raleigh.

The team analyzed trends in state governance across the country and applied lessons learned to North Carolina. Team members prepared two white papers on state-level regulation and a proposal for the use of the proving ground, and compiled a set of policy recommendations for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Research Poster Presentation at 2018 Bass Connections Showcase

Drafted a white paper for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on effective use of its automated vehicle proving ground, including recommendations on attracting business stakeholders to the state.

Personally, I focussed on truck platooning – where several truck are equipped with onboard sensors and closely follow one another to improve fuel efficiency resulting from less drag experienced.

We also shared team findings at the 2018 State Energy Conference in Raleigh, where we received honorable mention for our research poster.

Renewable Energy Technologies: Hydropower

Spring 2019 – Professor Walter Neal Simmons

Over the course of the spring semester this year, I took an in-depth look into the workings of hydropower facilities as part of an upper-level mechanical engineering course taught by professor Walter Neal Simmons. My grand challenge focus is ‘restore and improve urban infrastructure,’ and professor Simmons was the perfect instructor since he actually works at a company that owns and operates several hydro plants across the US – often very old plants that require modernization to maintain efficient operation.

In order to generate power, water must flow through a turbine which is in turn connected to a generator. Turbines can have various designs that work on the principles of reaction, impulse, etc. such that they either convert the kinetic energy of the flowing water to harness mechanical energy, or they rely on a large pressure differential to drive the turbines. Three types of turbines were discussed – Francis, Kaplan, and Pelton – each with their own unique use cases, and design features which make them suitable for operation in different scenarios.

The construction of dams is important for created a pressure head to run the turbines, and dams can be of several different types depending on the geological conditions of a particular site. We learned about gravity dams, embankment dams, arch dams, etc. each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The class also included a tour to a hydropower facility in Baden, NC, where we saw in action all the things we had learned over the semester.