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RIT receives grant to assess electric control center operators

Rochester Institute of Technology officials announced Wednesday a grant to research the readiness and response improvements of operators relying on critical information from electric control systems.

The $687,760 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will be shared in partnership with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as part of the Bonneville Power Administration Technology Innovation Project.

Researchers will study ways to improve the accuracy of understanding for operators receiving massive amounts of data from systems of a vast scale, college officials said.

The goal is to prevent crises, such as the 2003 northeast blackout blamed on an event that began in Ohio, through more effective decision-making.

Controllers there were slow to respond to a disruption, causing a chain reaction failure that spread through eight states and Canada.

More than 45 million people were without power for up to two days.

Esa Rantanen, an associate professor of psychology, is the grant’s principal investigator. He said his research next spring will have operators looking at mock displays, showing various scenarios.

“The operators will try to solve the problems we throw at them,” Rantanen said. “We want to find new ways of providing the information, so it will be easier for them to spot a problem and solve it.”

(c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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