Campus and Community

Técnico alumnus wins silver medal in REN awards

This is the 22nd edition of REN awards, which aims to distinguish the best master's theses within the field of energy performed in Portuguese higher education establishments of the different branches of Engineering.

Rui Mirra dos Santos is 24 years old, he works at Microsoft Portugal and is currently developing a project in the Netherlands. He took Mechanical Engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico, which earned him a second place in the REN Awards, delivered last week. In order to develop his master’s thesis – Nonlinear Economic Model Predictive Control for Energy Management of Smart Buildings – Rui Mirra dos Santos went to Roskilde, Denmark, and lived for 8 months in a smart house powered by wind energy.

About the subject of his thesis he says “I love all aspects of physics and it gives me great pleasure to use systemic abstractions of reality which allow an integration of different types of systems”. “These abstractions will allow to operate these same systems so efficiently that we achieve higher performances than in isolated systems”, he adds. The Técnico alumnus considers “engineer as a tool to solve the great social problems”, so he felt that this was “the perfect subject once it combines my interests with my concerns as a human being”, he justifies.

During the months he was in Denmark he created an algorithm that shows how a building can perfectly work with a battery that stores energy in a controlled way, using it as it suits us. “The control algorithm considers climate predictions, electric energy prices and collects real sensor data that allows us to measure the thermal conditions inside the building,” says Rui Mirra dos Santos.

When he applied for this award he knew he could win because of his thesis. “I was aware that my effort, my commitment and my dedication would allow me to be one of the winners of this award” he shares. He pointed out that this year’s edition was “a very stiff and balanced competition”. He won € 6,500, but the most important thing for him “is to see that there are so many people in our country, aware of this great problem that the planet is (still) facing,” he says. “Portugal can be one of the countries at the forefront of solving this problem – all it takes to achieve this is to have a group of capable, passionate and motivated people who together for this purpose,” says the Microsoft engineer.

Rui truly believes that “if we want to have a renewable future, two transformations will have to happen: first, electrification; then integration.” “Storage will be crucial whatsoever”, noted the Técnico alumnus.

In the future, he “aspires” to create his own business if three things coexist at a given moment: “the idea, the feeling of being prepared and the existence of a market that can help society”. He gives no further details but creating something is part of his projects.

He considers that Técnico was one of the biggest challenges of his life and that “it’s necessary talent, hard work and a strong will” to face these challenges. He also shares that “students at Técnico have resiliency and a hard capacity for work” and that “I will never stop being an engineer”.