- Published on Thursday, 07 February 2013 17:13
By Nadia M. Whitehead
UTEP News Service
Punya Prakash is a problem solver, and a really good one.
Design News and Mouser Electronics recently named the 2009 UTEP electrical engineering alumna Top Innovator in their Rising Engineering Stars contest.
As leader of Texas Instruments' (TI) Singlecore Processor team’s smart home and smart grid initiative, Prakash helps solve innovative technical problems each day that ultimately lead to energy conservation in residential homes and building automation.
For instance, she’s had a hand in developing the forthcoming smart meters and sub-metering applications utilizing TI processors.
“You know how you have the electrical meters outside your residence where someone comes and takes a reading manually?” said Prakash, who is originally from Bangalore, India. “Well, the trend is moving toward an automated system where someone doesn’t have to come and physically read the meters anymore, and it’s automatically updated to the electrical provider’s station.”
This innovation helps service providers cut costs, thus allowing customers to get the best price for their power, she said.
Sub-metering is geared more toward consumers and energy management.
“You should be able to walk into your home, connect any device to a smart plug, and monitor what’s consuming the most power in your house,” Prakash said.
The new visibility of energy consumption would allow consumers to respond to time-of-use pricing signals, smart thermostats that cycle the air conditioning in response to peak-load-reduction signals from the utility companies.
Other TI innovations on which Prakash is working are smart thermostats that users will be able to control from anywhere with their smartphones. Her other devices include intelligent systems within home appliances that would allow remote access to help detect issues instead of sending service technicians to the physical location of the appliance.
“When I think about the different innovations I have done, I really think it’s because of the great team I have,” she said. “You can come up with ideas, but to execute them you need a great set of talented individuals.”
Eric MacDonald, Ph.D., associate professor electrical and computer engineering, was Prakash’s mentor while she attended UTEP for a master’s degree.
“She was one of my best students, and got some of the highest grades in my chip design courses,” he said.
While at UTEP she was aided by the TI Foundations grant for students who focus on digital signal processing solutions. She also had the opportunity to work on the Beagle Board, a product of TI’s, and because of her work, ended up being offered an internship with the company – followed by an official job offer.
She has now worked at TI for three years.
Laura Billatos, a colleague who nominated her for Top Innovator, said, “Prakash has broken the glass ceiling in the often male-dominated technology industry. She has only been with TI for a little more than three years, but she has already made a mark.”
On the side, the former Miner is heavily involved in a STEM retention program to make sure that girls in high school get exposure to engineering early on. She is an avid biker and likes to travel and explore cultures around the world. She has also climbed several mountains in Colorado and South America.
Design News and Mouser Electronics will officially recognize Prakash during the MD&M West show on Feb. 12 in Anaheim, Calif.
“This was a truly humbling experience,” Prakash said. “To think about the fact that I won when there were such outstanding nominees – it’s just very, very humbling.”