Brad Radl named 2018 NPRE Advocate Award winner
In addition to his NPRE degree, Radl holds an MBA in Finance and Economics from Case Western Reserve University. He has parlayed the knowledge he gained at NPRE in the areas of physics, systems design and analysis, and teamwork to solving problems in the area of real-time control of complex problems. He has used this engineering skill set in a range of energy production facilities including nuclear, fossil and renewable energy.
Taber International provides solutions to fossil-fired power plants, focusing on heat rate gains and nitrogen oxide emissions reductions through applications of intelligent sootblowing, combustion optimization, and hydrogen pressure optimization on generators. The company has developed the Griffin Toolkit, capable of addressing opportunities in ‘big data’ problem sets and optimization and integration of renewable energy onto the grid.
In 2015 Radl established the Taber International LLC Fund to support the Master of Engineering Energy Systems degree that NPRE administers in the University of Illinois College of Engineering. Several students pursuing the degree have benefited from being named Taber Scholars.
The NPRE Advocate Award recognizes alumni and friends who have demonstrated their loyalty to NPRE through volunteer efforts, financial contributions, and/or other forms of advocacy.
Of the achievements throughout your career, please elaborate on the ones that have given you the most satisfaction and why?
Starting and founding my own companies. The challenge of coming up with commercial ideas and taking them from concept to installation and impact operations of power plants in significant way. The most significant being technology. Having my own company allowed me the freedom to research and implement ideas, that perhaps others thought were not possible, such as applying artificial intelligence to model and actively modify the operation of digital control systems. It also allowed the ability to 'find' my own team of like-minded engineers creating synergies that permitted us to achieve goals larger companies found difficult.
What have been the most useful lessons you have taken from your time as an NPRE student, and who helped you to learn them?
Dr. (John) Gilligan, Prof. (Dan) Hang, and Prof. (George) Miley all were very helpful at open door advising, even when I was not a student of theirs for classes. The interchange of ideas, a passion for learning and going after new ideas outside the textbooks were good testaments to the education that did not end when you received your degree. The Senior Project, in which we had a team of several students working together, was the best part of the education. Each student had different mini-goals, while we pursued the larger goal of designing a reverse spheroid fusion pinch reactor. Fine tuning the physics to meet the challenges of the fellow students handling metallurgy, energy capture, and control, was quite an eye opener on the many trade-offs necessary to an engineering project and the importance of clear concise communication among that team.
What have been the most useful lessons you have learned during your career?
Make plans, don't just jump into new things, but count on the plan not working so backups plans and adjustments are important. Failure would appear to be a prerequisite for success; but minimizing failures by thinking actions through first can save time and effort.
Who have been your inspirations, particularly in NPRE?
See Question 3 for college days. In the current NPRE, I have enjoyed my interchange of ideas with Profs. Jim Stubbins and Rizwan Uddin. Their drive and willingness to put effort into change and recognition of the challenges in a dynamic energy engineering field have been the inspiration to help NPRE and the Energy System program in particular.
What advice can you offer current students?
Embrace the opportunity at the University of Illinois to learn from the best. Don't be afraid to chase new or different ideas. I have been told many times about the things that cannot be done, but for engineers the constraint is physics and the willingness to persevere.
Do you have any comments on or predictions for the future of your industry?
The only real given is it will not look the same in 20 years. The era of fossil fuels is giving way to solid state and low cost or “free” fuel type technology.
There is, and will continue to be in the near future, tremendous opportunity for invention and innovation that can alter how the world is powered. (Brad Radl)
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