Research intern key to company’s COVID-19 pivot

Company switches from developing green energy to mobile medical units in just two weeks

When the COVID-19 pandemic was announced and the Government of Canada called upon researchers and businesses to develop solutions, Ramtin Rasoulinezhad answered.

A graduate student at Western University, Ramtin was working as a research engineer supported by Mitacs Accelerate . He was working on the Net Zero Energy Building project with AVL Manufacturing when CEO Vince Discristofaro selected him to work directly with the Hybrid Solution Division.

His new role within the solution division coupled with the COVID-19 government call, caused Ramtin to realize his research could address the current healthcare crisis. Thanks to Ramtin’s power-grid expertise, AVL Manufacturing was able to redeploy its efforts from manufacturing green technology units to mobile health units in order to provide a safe and controlled environment for hospital triage.

Unlike the tents currently being used by hospitals, AVL’s mobile modules are deployable within minutes, complete with built-in HVAC with HEPA filtration systems and negative pressure to filter viruses. The mobile units can also withstand the elements. The units allow hospital staff to triage patients who might have symptoms associated with COVID-19 before they enter the hospital. The units can also be used as extra hospital bed space or change rooms for medical staff.

“At AVL manufacturing we are working non-stop to build this mobile medical module since we are aware of the important role it can play to help keep our front-line nurses and doctors safe,” says Ramtin.

With expertise in the field of renewable energies and battery storage, Ramtin realized he could redeploy his advanced knowledge of power conversion systems and small energy grids to battle COVID-19 by creating these units.

And Vince credits Ramtin for helping his company make the swift transformation.

“Ramtin’s expertise has been invaluable to our business,” says Vince. “As a power-grid specialist, he brings unique experience in electrical integration and out-of-the-box solutions that are enabling our company to successfully propel forward with new and better ways of doing things.”

Ramtin began his Mitacs internship with CWEI—Centre Wellington Energy Innovations. When his initial industry supervisor took a new job at AVL Manufacturing, Ramtin had proven himself so valuable that his supervisor brokered a deal to take him to the new company.

After supervising him for a year now at AVL, David Forde, electrical lead, recognizes Ramtin’s strengths, academically and professionally.

“The best engineers have passion for their discipline and Ramtin has this in spades. He is a natural team-leader and can explain complicated scenarios, mathematically model, and graph analysis in such a way that they become easy for all to comprehend. If you couple this with his technical expertise you begin to get an idea of just how versatile he is and how valuable an asset he is to AVL,” says David, his industry supervisor.

With Ramtin joining AVL, the company has initiated a large undertaking of new projects that require research and development and mathematical modelling. Ramtin was invited to join the AVL Hybrid technical team to develop a “Mobile Triage Unit,” which is now designated as a Mobile Medical Module (MMM) due its modularity and multi-purpose design, including applications to battle COVID-19.

Ramtin developed integrated energy storage systems for connecting utility, generator, solar, and potentially wind power together seamlessly within the module, providing stable power and functionality to support medical professionals.

“Without his input and efforts, it is unlikely that this COVID-19 MMM would have been completed with such speed and with the capabilities that Ramtin’s designs have enabled,” says David.

As a key member of the Hybrid Solution Division, Ramtin has flexibility to implement his research with industrial products, thus leading to creative solutions like the mobile medical module. Likewise, he can bring AVL projects to his Western University academic team.

For example, one of Ramtin’s research publications, which benefitted from his experience at AVL, has been accepted in one of the most prestigious conferences in the field of energy conversion, the 2020 IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition. He also published a paper with a colleague at Western in IEEE’s Transactions on Smart Grid — one of the highest impact-factor journals for power-system engineers.

Ramtin began his PhD with Professor Gerry Moschopoulos in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering in May 2018.

“Ramtin’s greatest strengths are his passion for his work and his background knowledge in renewable energy systems and energy storage,” says Professor Moschopoulos. “He is a dedicated and enthusiastic engineer who is brimming with ideas that can lead to solutions that are green and cost-effective.”

At the beginning of Ramtin’s internship, he worked mostly at Western doing studies, simulations, and modeling to support his work at AVL. This semester, he built the prototype for the mobile medical module — and it works!

Ramtin is now in the process of using the modules in the manufacturing industry for many different applications including healthcare.

His goal now that AVL has focused its efforts on manufacturing these mobile healthcare units? — to let government and medical organizations know of the valuable resource available to battle COVID-19.

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, Mitacs also receives support from the Government of Alberta, Government of British Columbia,  the Government of Quebec, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, and the Government of Saskatchewan.​

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