EPIC Unites Industry and Education for Energy

"EPIC is about regional growth and advancement in the energy industry," said Dr. Steve Patterson, director of EPIC and a distinguished professor in the Lee College of Engineering. "Clearly one strength of EPIC is the outstanding energy engineering assets of the region in which we live."

Regional energy corporations include AREVA, Duke Energy, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), The Shaw Group, URS Washington Group, Westinghouse, Siemens and Metso Power.

A rendering of the EPIC building, which will house much of the College of Engineering's future energy-related programs in electrical, computer, civil and environmental engineering.

"The industry collaboration within EPIC is leading to the expansion of energy engineering studies in our classrooms," Dr. Patterson said. "Part of what we're doing is developing and implementing energy concentrations based on industry needs.

"Industry involvement with EPIC is led through a board of advisors that oversees the center's strategy and helps build industry relations. A separate implementation team is working with the university to align curriculum to industry needs, assist in student projects and identify research.

EPIC Director Dr. Steve Patterson at the site on the UNC Charlotte campus where the new EPIC building will be constructed.

Keyes Niemer, a project manager for the Nuclear Division of The Shaw Group's Power Group, is a member of the implementation team and his been involved with EPIC since its inception three years ago. Shaw Group employs 27,000 people worldwide in energy engineering, procurement and construction work, 1,400 of those in Charlotte.

"What Shaw would like to see is a core curriculum of power engineering within UNC Charlotte's engineering program," Niemer said. "That means more power emphasis in electrical engineering, and also incorporating power-related projects and examples into existing courses across disciplines."

Shaw needs graduates with strong project management, scheduling and budgeting skills, Niemer said. They also want students to see that there are good, exciting jobs building and upgrading power plants.

The EPIC implementation team will also be addressing a number of new research and technical issues, Niemer said. These include equipment reliability, power delivery, sub stations, air quality, emissions reductions, non-destructive evaluation, materials and increasing power plant longevity.

Dhiaa Jamil is Duke Energy's group executive and chief nuclear officer, and chairman of the EPIC advisory board. He is also a UNC Charlotte engineering alumnus.

"EPIC will play a significant role in providing engineering students with the fundamentals for supporting power production and infrastructure design and maintenance," Jamil said. "EPIC will train students in power production fundamentals, which will reduce the time needed and costs associated with training new employees. These graduates can start work with an understanding of the industry and associated work."

Additionally, EPIC provides Duke Energy with a local partner for research opportunities, Jamil said. "This can include solving technology problems, as well as developing and improving existing technology. EPIC will also have a key role in expanding emphasis on renewable technology and will serve as a hub for renewables research."

Dayna Herrick, the Workforce Development Manager for Duke Energy's Nuclear Generation Department, is a member of the EPIC implementation team.

"We're trying to get our arms around what the demand for energy-related talent is in the Carolinas," Herrick said. "We then want to determine what input industry can provide to help craft the electives and core courses that will meet those demands."

Nuclear plants rely on many electrical and mechanical engineering elements such as pumps, valves and heat exchangers, which require very stringent maintenance to insure reliability. For this reason EPIC would like to see students learn more about preventive and predictive maintenance, and failure analysis, Herrick said.

"I see EPIC as a place I can turn to when I need a new and creative solution," she said. "It's an energy think tank. EPIC is where theory meets reality." Jim Little, senior vice president of Nuclear Energy Programs with URS Washington Group, is a member of the EPIC board of advisors. He is with URS's Nuclear Center in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which provides engineering, procurement and construction services for the entire life cycle of nuclear facilities.

"The U.S. will be rebuilding its energy infrastructure in the near future," Little said. "The pipeline of talent for this effort will come from our educational system. EPIC is a great opportunity for strengthening this educational system, and we're very interested in providing our support and guidance to make it successful."

The EPIC board is working with the Lee College of Engineering to create programs that go beyond just technical skills, Little said. "We need to emphasize skills outside of engineering, such as project management, collaborative teamwork, risk analysis and leadership. We want to see a balanced portfolio of skills."

For more information about EPIC contact Dr. Steve Patterson at spatters@uncc.edu.

EPIC Board of Advisors

  • Chairman, Dhiaa Jamil, Duke Energy, Group Executive and Chief Nuclear Officer
  • Paul Myers, AREVA, Vice President Engineering
  • Dave Modeen, EPRI, Director of External Affairs Nuclear
  • Jeff Merrifield, Shaw Group, Senior Vice President
  • Mark Pringle, Siemens, Director of Operations
  • Mark Boomgarden, Tessera, VP, Wafer Level Camera
  • Bob Johnson, UNC Charlotte, Dean College of Engineering
  • Jim Little, URS/Washington, SVP Nuclear Energy Programs
  • Michele DeWitt, Westinghouse, Vice President USFB

Source: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte