By Christine Page
The opportunity to go to Boston for the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES) Student Congress conference was an experience for this sophomore undergraduate from the University of Idaho. The conference was held in the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. There were students from all over the United States and Canada, most of them coming from their respectable University chapters. Not only that, but the diversity among everyone’s cultural backgrounds was astounding. There were transfer students from U.S. schools, but they were from places like India and Pakistan. Needless to say, we all bonded and became one huge family of 68 bright individuals for three days.
The first day started with welcome remarks from John D. McDonald (Smart Grid Development Leader) where he talked about his first job as an engineer and how that experience led him to be patient, hard-working, and a mentor to others. Then he went on to express the importance of both external and internal focus and how having the knowledge of opportunities within and outside of the company you are working for not only expands allows you to become more informed, but to also continue to make yourself a growing asset in the power engineering industry.
Following the welcome remarks, Frank Lambert (IEEE PES VP President Chapters) showed his passion for PES and shared why being in PES is beneficial, while also giving advice on how to continue to stay involved in the society by applying for scholarships like the PES Scholars scholarship, submitting papers to conferences, and actively volunteering in regional chapters. He returned later to present his PES chapter’s microgrid project in the Thomann Community where they designed a microgrid using the integration of PV, batteries, and a diesel generator to power the Thomann Compound (which includes the medical clinic, pharmacy, four dormitories, etc.)
Other presentations included: Megatrends in Electric Power Industry, and Why a Career in it is so Exciting! (Wayne Bishop, Marketing Manager at OMICRON), Educating, Engaging, & Retaining Talent (Natalie Krauser-McCarthy, Development Officer IEEE Foundation), Integrating Renewables into the Power Grid (Babak Enayati, Lead Engineer of the National Grid), Reinventing US Education (Edvina Uzunovic, Adjunct Professor WPI), Transmission Strategy (Tom Gentile, VP Quanta Technology), and Power Systems Hardware-in-the-Loop Laboratory Testbed and Open Platform (HILLTOP) (Reynaldo Salcedo, Technical Staff at MIT Lincoln Lab). Attendees also got to present their branch chapters’ accomplishments at a poster session.
All these presentations had a common theme: supporting and acknowledging the need for power engineers in the industry. The presenters reiterated how younger power engineers are needed to take the place of the retiring ones. The information given during the presentations allowed the conference attendees to gather their questions to ask during the panels sessions on the second day.
The panel sessions discussed the Future Careers in Electric Power and Professional Development. Scott Secrest (VP of Engineering of 3C Electrical) was the moderator for the first panel, joined by Matthew Robinson (Senior Engineer at 3C Electrical), Matt Rosentreter (College Recruiter of Burns and McDonnel), and Demetrios Sakellaris (Supervisor-Lead Engineer of Eversource) where the three men were asked questions about going to graduate school, how having a license is important, and what being in the industry as a power engineer is like. Then, in the Professional Development panel, it was a free-for-all where attendees of the conference could ask Matthew Robinson, Jorge Rodriguez (Field Engineer Supervisor at Eversource), and Stephan Brogran (Assistant Department Manager Substation at Burns and McDonnel) any questions they desired. One attendee asked about two job opportunities, one sticking with a company he doesn’t particularly enjoy but was secure, and the other being a leap into the unknown. Matthew Robinson answered with confidence, “The money will always be there. Don’t worry about the money. It will be there.” His response sparked more questions ranging from the struggles of taking power classes in college to what their first interviews were like which the panelists responded with ease.
The first two days wrapped up with tours of two of the major tourist attractions in Boston: The Freedom Trail and the Museum of Science. On the freedom trail, conference attendees experienced the history of Boston and why the city is such an iconic part of United States history. Two tour guides played the roles of two women during the time period while leading us through landmarks along the trail like: The Massachusetts State House, the Park Street Church, the Granary Burying Ground where Paul Revere was buried, the Benjamin Franklin statue, the site of the Boston Massacre, and many more. At the Museum of Science, attendees got to explore the museum on their own for an hour before attending a gala dinner at the top floor of the museum. There, dinner was presented along with an amazing view of the city and a presentation given by Christopher Root (Chief Operating Engineer for VELCO) where he talked about educating students to specialize in power.
The third day of the conference was packed with tours through the MIT campus, MIT’s fission and fusion labs, Doble, and the National Grid’s solar panel farm. During the MIT tours, attendees were split up into groups, some touring the campus, others touring either the fission or fusion labs of their choosing. From there, attendees traveled to Doble where President Bryan Sayler gave a short welcoming speech before everyone went on a tour, seeing the working wheels of the company. The conference ended with seeing the solar panel farm run by the National Grid, where attendees were educated about how the solar panels were run remotely using a type of human machine interface (HMI).
Being able to attend this conference, I not only became informed with the value of being a PES member, but also about the importance and impact that power engineers have in our society today and in the future. Not only that, but getting to experience Boston for the first time and learning its history added to the astounding impact that the conference had on my summer. I am looking forward to next year’s PES conference, and hope to see PES grow and educate others like me in power engineering in the years to come.