Blog #17

New digital pedagogies on the horizon: SLEW - “SECOND LIFE FOR ENERGIEWENDE”

Authors: Claudia Battistelli, Antonello Monti
Institute for Automation of Complex Power Systems (ACS) EON Energy Research Center (EONERC) RWTH University Aachen, Germany


Teaching of electrical energy systems is challenging, in that it is not possible for students to directly experience their phenomena, so much so that electrical engineering is normally perceived as rather abstract and heavily based on mathematical modelling. Digital computer simulation has been in this respect a great step forward because it allows the translation of complex phenomena and their mathematical representation in a visual experience. Currently, the energy system is undergoing a significant transformation, in Germany identified with the term “Energiewende”. As this transformation is making the system more complex, understanding phenomena and interactions is coherently getting more challenging for the students. On top of that, a real experimental activity is not possible because it is unthinkable to play with the real electrical grids for obvious reasons of security and safety. One way to improve the situation, while making the learning a more engaging experience for the students, is the application of real-time simulation, which allows interacting with a model of the infrastructure that acts on the same scale of time of reality. Unfortunately, though, commercial real-time simulators are very expensive and it is not possible to make them available to the students.

Technical description and implementation

The Institute for Automation of Complex Power Systems (ACS) of RWTH Aachen University has such infrastructure available but traditionally the only option has been to use it in the classroom with only the teacher interacting with the system. To overcome this limitation, in October 2020 ACS has launched the project SLEW – “SECOND LIFE FOR ENERGIEWENDE”, with the specific target of transferring real-time simulation activities from a commercial platform to an interactive on-line format based on experiments run in standard PC Clusters from ITC. SLEW exploits a new real-time simulation tool, DPSim, developed by ACS and available as Open Source to the power engineering community. The goal is to extend the DPsim tool to become a useful support for teaching purposes. Thanks to this extension, the students in Power Systems Dynamics will be able from next year to solve assignments by executing independently real-time simulations to learn about transient behavior of large power systems. The project will support the complete deployment of the learning concept in the Power Systems Dynamics class but the main idea is to design a set of Application Program Interfaces (API) to the simulator so that other classes could develop other types of live interaction. The long-term target is to create a large virtual power engineering world where complex interactions may happen at different level, for the sake a new, innovative way of teaching Electrical Engineering.

For more information on the project SLEW, contact:

Claudia Battistelli (cbattistelli@eonerc.rwth-aachen.de)