13:41 PM

Childhood Passion Fuels Engineering Professor's Trajectory

By Bradi Zapata

From a young age, Hamed Nademi’s family knew he was made to work with technology. At only 9, joy filled the third grader as he entered a classroom filled with devices – electronic devices that is, which were intertwined with twisting wires and circularly winding coils running in and out of every groove.  

Nademi excitedly picked up the tools he often watched his father and grandfather utilize in their pursuit of solutions and began melding the various coils into unique shapes. His family's household necessities like the television or cars were never broken for long, as the cross-generational hands went to work and creative wheels began to turn. Although his father was a teacher and his grandfather was an electrician, the family was pivotal in Nademi’s career pursuit.  

Today, years later, he works as an assistant professor in electrical engineering at Cal State San Marcos.  His projects look a little different nowadays, but they still encompass everything he fell in love with at that young, elementary-school age.  

Using his expertise in renewable energy, Nademi fills much of his time working with his students on four projects, each operational on their own but will also fit together interdisciplinary. The base of the project is an unused golf cart, which has been converted to be operational by a battery or solar energy, while the battery is being charged by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. When the battery is used on the golf cart and if there’s enough sunlight, the cart would essentially self-charge while operating. 

Next, he’s building a microgrid system composed of battery modules as energy storage, solar PV panels and a residential small wind turbine. This battery could be charged from not only solar energy but wind energy as well. Nademi has made this one of the focuses of his research because an efficient control scheme for stable and reliable operation of such a microgrid system is an industry-open challenge. 

The different energy resources of this microgrid systems would all work together to allow the golf cart motor to power on, drive, and be recharged. These operations would also be influenced by solar panels mounted on the cart or on a ground mounting kit, next to the golf cart. 

The third project investigates onshore and/or offshore wind farm energy systems.  

And, inspired by the way elephants swim, the fourth project is a marine energy prototype:  a four-cylinder piston that pulls from ocean or sea waves to create compressed air. This air would eventually generate electricity that could be used to power up system lights in the ocean or transferred to power an electricity utility power grid, like what SDG&E uses.

These types of projects are important because innovating the way energy is used is essential to the world’s current climate crisis. Given that the golf cart objective is successful, these operations could actually be transferred to a different type of vehicle, such as an electric vehicle.  

“In the age of digitalization and fast-moving technologies, there are many challenges on implementation of renewable energy resources. This also means that there are big opportunities for our students, as future workforces address those challenges,” said Nademi. “The distributed renewable energy and electrified transportations are profoundly changing our daily lives… and this is a worldwide trend.” 

On all projects, Nademi prioritizes working with his students and exposing them to hands-on experiences that offer them skillsets in demand in their future professional careers. He teaches them through multiple courses that are of value to a number of industries. Because of this, every student in the first class of electrical engineering students who graduated in spring 2023 received job offers.

Christopher Lee and Peter Klarwein are among the first students to work on the golf cart project since its approval and delivery in November 2022.  

“Chris and I are definitely learning a lot in the process of working on these types of projects,” said Klarwein. “Right now, we're pretty much just installing everything, which has been challenging because we've run into a lot of hiccups.” 

“Nademi has been really great and really helpful when we run into these problems. I’ve learned a lot and working with him, and he makes me want to be a better person.” 

Nademi believes that it is his purpose in academia to do everything he can to help students reach their full potential. California is a pioneering exemplary state in integration of renewable energy resources worldwide. Electrical engineers are also needed to help the southwest part of the United States suffering from a drought or replace fossil fuels with distributed energy resources to combat climate change.   

“These are big opportunities for our students and this skillset is lacking in the workforce development efforts,” said Nademi. “I believe that the future of nations depends on the success of our current students and my mission, as a faculty member working in this area, is to provide an opportunity for my students to gain the necessary knowledge in partnership with industry and develop key technologies, the student-centered learning approach.” 

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