Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 496 other followers

Turkish Electric Car w/ 500km Driving Range Hits Roads

At the LIINES, we have been conducting research on Transportation Electrification for quite some time.

At heart of the research is the electric vehicle, and its challenge is that it is both a transportation artifact that exists on our everyday roads as well as an electrical artifact that must connect to the power grid.   In the first full-scale case study of its kind, we have shown in Abu Dhabi that managing this dual nature means ensuring vehicle availability through charging while not imposing overly heavy demands on the grid.

One main challenge of electric vehicles is their driving range.  Many commercially available EVs only have a range of 150km — thus requiring charging once or twice a day.   With charging times of several hours, this means that a typical driver has to think very carefully how and when this EV will be practically used.

In contrast, a recent Turkish Electric Car developed at Istanbul University has demonstrated a 500km driving range in a tour from Istanbul to Ankara.  The “T-1″ as the vehicle is called weighs a mere 500 kilograms and has a top speed of 120 kilometers per hour.  And while the vehicle looks sporty sleek, it has not neglected practicality with four seats and enough room for luggage.

With the T-1, the development team builds upon earlier successes including their 8th place finish in the 2009 global electric car competition held in Australia.

 

WhiteLogo2

LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

ESM 501 Systems Architecture

To start off the new semester, we have just developed a page for the ESM 501 System Architecture class.  The subject addresses one of the first stages of system design, analysis and engineering.  Emphasis is placed on engineering systems which include technical, economic and social aspects.  This blog does often discuss subjects related to systems architecture.  See the LIINES Blog Keywords:  Axiomatic Design, Axiomatic Design for Large Flexible Systems, Design Methodologies, Enterprise Control, Graph Theory, Life Cycle Properties, Model-Based Systems Engineering, Socio-Techno-Economic Systems, and SysML.

Additionally, a new page has been added to overview our other taught courses.

Good luck to all as we kick off the Fall Semester.

WhiteLogo2

LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

LIINES Research Opportunities

As the Fall 2014 academic semester begins, graduate students begin to shop for classes and thesis research topics.  To help guide junior researchers to the research opportunities at the LIINES, we have posted a new research opportunities page.

Good luck to all as we kick off the Fall Semester.

WhiteLogo2

LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

Mendeley @ the LIINES

Reference management is a key competence in any research group or laboratory.   Think of a research workflow.

  1. Get papers
  2. Get paper reference information
  3. Read them from anywhere in the world.  Take notes.
  4. Share them with colleagues
  5. Do the research – referring to papers as required.
  6. Cite the papers easily in any document preparation system.
  7. Build the reference list easily and accurately.
  8. Be ready to change the reference list in subsequent revisions.
Reference management supports all steps of the research flow and can save dozens of hours for any given paper.  This compounds with the numbers of papers that are produced every year and the number of researchers and collaborators with whom you work.  Despite the associated controversies  journal editors and academic departments will continue to increasingly use bibliometric analysis in key decisions.  Therefore, systematic approaches to reference management is even more necessary.
At the LIINES, we use Mendeley in 2011 after a migration from EndNote.  While EndNote had been the default reference management software for many years, it did have several key disadvantages which others have also noted.
  1. Cost:  Endnote required a license for every LIINES researcher at a relatively hefty price tag.  Sharing with collaborators was an every harder proposition.  Furthermore, yearly upgrade licenses was an even tougher pill to swallow.
  2. PDF Organization:  Managing the filesystem associated with PDF files of all the references is a big challenge.  EndNote did not provide a headache-free solution to this.  Even worse, an EndNote database could lose links to PDF files making it quite difficult to find again.
  3. Collaboration & Sharing:  The above challenges were compounded when it came to share Endnote Libraries across the LIINES.  Endnote sharing through Dropbox across multiple operating systems can get quite hairy!
  4. Proprietary Platform & Database:  When reference databases get large, one increasingly becomes interested in automating tasks for its management.   While EndNote does provide plenty of built in automated functionality, the power user ultimately does need to manage records automatically.
Of course, when migrating from one reference management system to another, it is important to make an educated well-researched decision.  The folks at PhdOnTrack.net have provided an excellent introduction.  The University of Rhode Island library has made a comparison of leading options, while Wikipedia provide a comprehensive comparison
Ultimately, Mendeley did come out on top @ the LIINES for a number of reasons.
  1. Cost:  The Mendeley desktop application is free!  This meant that every LIINES researcher could work individually without paying a penny.  That said, the associated cost was in the cloud-based monthly data storage plan.   While this was a recurring cost, Mendeley’s “Solar System”, “Milky Way”, and “Big Bang” subscription plans were very much priced reasonably.   Since Elsevier’s purchase of Mendeley, the cost of new plans has risen; perhaps out of reach for many.  Fortunately, with a little computer savvy one could also use other cloud-based storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive to easily store and share reference libraries.  Alternatively, many institutions including MIT have recognized the need to provide a uniform platform for their researchers and so have purchased Mendeley Institutional Edition.
  2. PDF Organization:  Probably one of Mendeley’s strongest features is its ability to automatically name and organize PDF files based upon key reference information such as Author Name, Year, and Title.  This became a headache free solution.
  3. Collaboration & Sharing:  Another real strength of Mendeley’s is its recognition of Web 2.0 and social media.   Mendeley databases are easily shared and synchronized between multiple computers, operating systems, tablets, smart phones, and users in a seamless way.   For the LIINES, this meant native support for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android for dozens of researchers across the world.
  4. Standard Database:  Finally, Mendeley’s database is written in SQL.  This meant that for the advanced database programmer, Mendeley offers the potential to develop automated scripts to manage reference data.  This particular strength overcomes some of the feature limitations within the Mendeley desktop application itself.
And yet, the migration to Mendeley was not without its disadvantages.
  1. Integration with LatTeX/BibTex:  Mendeley is able to create and maintain an automatically synced BibTeX database file.  However, it provides no user control to the highly important Citation Key!  In the course of regular use, Mendeley can change these citation keys which will then cause LaTeX citation links to break in your document.  Make sure to keep backups of your BibTeX database unless you want to redo all the links!
  2. PDF File Import:  The jury is still out on this one. Mendeley can directly import PDF files.  It will scan the PDF for reference information and insert it into the database.  For many files of standard format (e.g. IEEE, Elsevier journals), it does this accurately.  However, for many others, it creates lots of errors; forcing the researcher to manually correct the information.  At the LIINES, we recommend going to established online reference databases (IEEE XploreScienceDirectCompendex & Google Scholar  to download the associated .ris or .bib files instead.
  3. Batched PDF Import:  Many researchers new to reference management have troves of organized pdf files.  Others are migrating to Mendeley.  Beware that a batch PDF import can create lots of duplicates in the Mendeley database!
  4. Duplicates Management:  Mendeley desktop does provide a “Check for Duplicates” feature but in then requires manual deletion of these duplicates.  For large databases, this can be very time consuming.
  5. Association with Elsevier:  Finally, some academics have chosen to boycott Elsevier’s service on ethical grounds.  Others distinguish Mendeley from its parent company, and then there is official Mendeley perspective from William Gunn   While the LIINES does not participate in this boycott, we recognize its existence out of academic respect and encourage awareness amongst our readership.  Ultimately, one must recognize that Mendeley is now a fully commercial product and service.  For those that maintain reservations, many highly functional, free and open-source reference management solutions continue to exist.
We hope to return to some of these weakness in coming blog posts.

IEEE Statement on Appropriate use of Bibliometric Indicators

The use of bibliometric analysis has become an increasing part of scientific publishing today.   While bibliometric analysis has brought about a degree of quantified objectivity, many have raised concerns about the potential pitfalls of their usage.   We refer our LIINES readership to the recent IEEE Statement on the Appropriate use of Bibliometric Indicators.   The associated video can be found below.

 

WhiteLogo2

LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

Congratulations & Welcome to Masdar Institute’s ESM 2014 Incoming Class

As the Fall 2014 academic semester begins, graduate students begin to shop for classes and thesis research topics.

Today, the Engineering Systems and Management Faculty met to present their research topics to the incoming class. If you missed it, get in touch with the ESM Department Head: Prof. Mohammad Omar.

We also presented the LIINES research overview and you can find the powerpoint slides powerpoint slides here. It includes four research themes:

More information on each of these can be found on the LIINES research page.  Additionally, we have written several blog posts on each of these topics.

Good luck to all as we kick off the Fall Semester.

WhiteLogo2

LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

Engineering systems as the continued evolution of engineering to real world problems

In a recent blog post entitled:  “Systems Engineering is just plain old Engineering — not more and certainly not less“, the author questions and discusses systems engineering, engineering systems as part of engineering.

Deeper insight is gained by looking at the definition of engineering itself.  One good definition of engineering is:  “Engineering is the professional art of applying science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to benefit man.”  In the same book, we find: “Engineering is an art requiring the judgement necessary to adapt knowledge to practical purposes, the imagination to conceive original solutions to problems, and the ability to predict performance and cost of new devices or processes.”  (D. W. Oliver, T. P. Kelliher, and J. G. Keegan, Engineering complex systems with models and objects. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997, pp. 25.)

The real question is whether engineering — as it stands today — does indeed meet these definitions.  Any discipline when analyzed traditionally is two things:  a core of methodological activities and a set of typical applications.   So the question becomes whether these methodological activities are sufficient for the applications; the practical problems that when solved would benefit man.

One challenge of modern engineering is its division into multiple disciplines.  Mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical are but a common few.  Each of these comes with their own core of methodologies and typical applications.   Therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult even within engineering itself to apply methodologies from one engineering discipline into another.  It is equally difficult to apply core methodologies in atypical applications.

Coming back to the definition of engineering, some practical problems are simply so big that they require methodological activities from multiple engineering disciplines and in of themselves are the union of multiple typical domains of application.  Here, it is important to recognize the common adage:  “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts“.

And so traditional systems engineering was born shortly after World War II.  Defense applications like jet fighters and satellites clearly draw from mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering.   Astronautical and Aeronautical engineering departments naturally recognize the need for cross-disciplinary activity and have often included the Systems Engineering Handbook within their curricula. Similar trends emerged in nuclear power plants and even highly automated production facilities.

The four research themes at the Laboratory for Intelligent Integrated Networks of Engineering Systems are further examples of this continuing trend.  The energy-water nexus draws heavily from electric power engineering and water resources management.  The electrification of transportation draws heavily from transportation engineering, electric power engineering, and the mechanical engineering of cars and trains.  Smart (power) grids — as cyber-physical systems — recognize that electric power engineering must expand to include new developments from control systems, optimization, signal processing, communications and information technology.  Similarly, reconfigurable manufacturing systems are cyber-physical and integrate similar subjects.

While integrating knowledge from multiple engineering disciplines is helpful, it is insufficient to meet the original definition of engineering as above.  What if the engineering application requires natural resources that are deemed too large by society?  Till today, people ask this of the Big Dig project in Boston.  Another question.  Does the engineering application truly benefit mankind?  We ask this today in the context of nuclear disarmament.  These questions draw heavily from economics, management, political science and ethics.  And they are relatively subjective as compared to the typical methodological activities found in the engineering disciplines.  And yet, it is naive to think that their solution does not require engaged participation of engineers and their disciplines.

These types of questions dominate 21st century problems as compared to those of the 20th century.  In the 20th century, traditional engineering disciplines began from a set of requirements and ended with some product or service as a solution.  These requirements represented the economics, regulations, policies and ethics as an operating box for engineers.   This role, however, is changing.  In the 21st century, engineers no longer take these “requirements” as given but instead have an expanding role of influence. Chief technology officers have increasingly important roles in the innovative success of modern companies.  Government regulators often seek engineers within their ranks.  And many nations are finding engineers within their legislative and executive branches of government.  We’ve moved from a decomposed top-down world to one that is innovative and bottom-up.

It is from this lens that the field of engineering systems finds itself.  It’s still the same engineering definition but the nature of the problem has changed.  This is a good sign.  Engineers are increasingly bringing pervasive solutions to benefit mankind.  As they do, they will increasingly interface with the disciplines devoted to people and society:  the humanities and social sciences.  As that happens, adhering to the definition of engineering will require engineers to converse with these disciplines.  Common definitions and methods are likely to develop as all of these disciplines collectively work to solve mankind’s techno-economic-social problems.

WhiteLogo2

LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 496 other followers