Ricardo Santoni Carrero has always been fascinated by technology, specifically electronics and circuits. As a child, he tore open old radios and toys just to see how they worked. 

As an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Santoni Carrero became captivated by energy and power systems, and he ultimately focused his studies on electrical engineering.

ORNL Success Story: Ricardo Santoni Carrero
During an internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Ricardo Santoni Carrero assisted in the development of a tracking system for shipments of radioactive materials.

“I’ve always wanted to participate in projects that improved the lives of people and contributed to the growth of society, and electrical engineering was the ideal way to reach my goals,” Santoni Carrero said.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, which wreaked havoc on the infrastructure of his native Puerto Rico, he came to an important realization.

“We live in a world that is becoming increasingly energy-dependent every day, but the advances in this field are not proportional to the increase in demand,” he said. “This observation motivates me to keep studying electrical engineering in an effort to understand and improve modern (power) systems and therefore help society.”

While still an undergraduate, Santoni Carrero participated in a summer research experience at the Georgia Institute of Technology. While there, he learned about the GEM Fellowship Program, which enables students from underrepresented communities to pursue graduate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“I met the GEM representative at Georgia Tech, and after speaking with her I was convinced that I had to apply for this program,” he recalled.

As a GEM fellow, Santoni Carrero had the opportunity to conduct research within the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) through the GEM Fellow Internship Program.

Under the guidance of his mentor, James Younkin, Santoni Carrero assisted in the development of a tracking system for shipments of radioactive materials. The goal of the Transportation-Security, Tracking, and Reporting System (T-STAR) with Authenticatable Container Tracking tags is to pinpoint a shipment’s location and provide information on various measurements, including temperature, humidity and relative pressure. Use of T-STAR could help prevent the theft or loss of radioactive materials being transported.

In collaboration with his mentor, Santoni Carrero developed code to test the prototype for the T-STAR circuit board. He also investigated ways to establish communication between different T-STAR devices.

At the end of the summer, Santoni Carrero and other GEM interns shared their research findings during a Technical Presentation Competition, and he was honored as one of three winners of the competition. Santoni Carrero and the other finalists gave their presentations at the National GEM Consortium’s annual conference in Chicago.

After his internship at ORNL, Santoni Carrero began a graduate program at Arizona State University, where he will pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering. He hopes one day to join a national laboratory and conduct research full-time.

“I would recommend this program to anyone who is planning on pursuing graduate studies, and at the same time wants to get a head-start with experience as a researcher,” he said.

The GEM Fellow Internship Program is a partnership between the National GEM Consortium and ORNL. The National GEM Consortium is a network of leading corporations, research institutions and universities that enables qualified students from underrepresented communities to pursue graduate education in STEM fields. The program at ORNL is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Transportation-Security, Tracking, and Reporting System (T-STAR) was developed by the National Nuclear Security Administration, NA-21, Office of Radiological Security (ORS) to provide a transportation security system for detection and tracking during transport of Category 1 and Category 2 radiological material. Gen 3 of T-STAR leverages Oak Ridge National Laboratory technologies to improve the communications capability and reduce power consumption using a multimode communications module developed by the Unmanned Vehicle Development Laboratory and the low power and extensible Authenticatable Container Tracking System tag developed for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Packaging Certification Program. T-STAR uses both cellular and Iridium satellite modems to communicate the configuration, status and alerts to a server monitoring the shipment. A wireless security system employing intrusion detection sensors located in the conveyance together with environmental sensors, a hardware security module for digitally signing communications messages, and a single peripheral expansion slot gives strong situational awareness throughout the duration of transport.