Don Reising building research program that also provides real world opportunities for UTC students

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in our continuing periodic series of articles focused on research initiatives at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Donald Reising, who earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the Air Force Institute for Technology, came to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) to help build the institution’s research program. In the process of doing so, he also wanted to make sure that he provided real world opportunities for the students that he teaches.

In his view, it’s not enough to just learn in the classroom. Students also need to be engaged with businesses and industries to better understand the challenges they are facing and ways to bring innovative solutions to the challenge.

Fast forward to today, and his colleagues like Tony Skjellum, Director of UTC’s SimCenter, talk about the significant contributions Reising is making in helping the institution expand from its traditional liberal arts heritage to a much more robust research engine.

One of those projects, which came through the SimCenter and was supported by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), involved a company that relocated its Operations Center to Chattanooga to take advantage of the first-in-the-nation gigabit capability that EPB had deployed. The company is named IMSA, and we spotlighted UTC’s work with it in this 2019 article. Reising says the project drew on his digital communications expertise.

In 2020, UTC spotlighted another project involving Reising and his students when they worked with EPB to develop a solution to meet a critical need. In this case, EPB’s system for monitoring both current or potential future “electric disturbances” on its SmartGrid, which generates vast amounts of data that needs to be processed and analyzed speedily and more efficiently.

As noted in this UTC blogpost, the traditional method of processing the data before the SmartGrid was to review these disturbances manually. That was less than efficient and obviously much more time intensive and, with the much larger volume of information, very impractical. Reising and the students developed a software solution that can run on a personal computer.

The Ohio native arrived at UTC a few years after earning his Ph.D. In addition to digital communications which was applied to the IMSA project, his research interests include wireless device discrimination using RF-DNA fingerprints, digital signal processing, and compressive sensing.

“I had to carve my own path,” Reising says of those early days, but he connected early on with Jeff Cornett, ORNL’s liaison to Chattanooga and also Program Administrator for the RevV initiative. The latter is a State of Tennessee-funded economic development effort that helps manufacturers across the state tackle their toughest challenges in product development and in process innovation to help ensure Tennessee manufacturers maintain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Through the work with IMSA and a newer one with Hayden Data Systems, Reising has become a fan of RevV, and the reason should not come as a surprise. “What I like about it is you’re giving students a real-world problem with a safety net,” he says. “In the end, they are producing something for the client.”

The project with Hayden involves monitoring the “health,” so to speak, of electric power poles. Explaining that they typically have a 50-year life, Reising says that monitoring the poles manually is a real challenge, so he and a team of students are working with Hayden Data Systems personnel to  develop a second generation device that attaches to a pole and can monitor for everything from barometric pressure to wind speed and the presence of gases like methane that might adversely affect the poles.

“We have been able to fund a graduate student for 18 months to work on the project,” Dr. Reising says. The work includes developing a newer prototype that is wireless and also has additional features such as measuring the voltage on a line. “That’s important for the safety of the linemen,” he adds.

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