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Today and Tomorrow

Across the midwestern US, PES Chapters are helping today’s generation and tomorrow’s generation of power engineers

The IEEE PES Region 4 is comprised of the midwestern US. Here are some of the highlights from the region’s chapters from the first half of 2018.

The Siouxland Chapter is headquartered in South Dakota completed a wind turbine farm tour in Iowa, highlighted by allowing participants to be fully safety trained and climb to the top of the wind turbine! They had several other special events, including hosting the Center for Power Systems banquet, a private tour of the Interstates Engineering Site and social events. In April they jointly hosted the IEEE Career forum with the IEEE Student Branch from South Dakota State University, bringing in 50 students to learn and listen about different careers in Electrical Engineering.

The Michigan Tech University (MTU) chapter hosts annual plant trips to manufacturers of protection and control equipment for transmission and distribution assets. This year was no different. The chapter also supports a pre-job fair and info sessions for company representatives looking to recruit new talent with an electric power emphasis. These sessions provide a relaxed and informal environment for students and companies to interact prior to the all-university career fair.

The Toledo chapter also hosted a 30 person tour of a local solar field in addition to a technical seminar to help educate participants. The solar field helps to power the local Toledo Zoo.

Another very active chapter was the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC) Chapter.

Engaging members in fulfilling professional development, service activities, and social events has been a key ingredient to ensuring the successful growth of the joint IEEE PES/PELS/IAS chapter at UIUC. Last year, the UIUC chapter hosted over 30 professional development seminars by industry and academic leaders on topics ranging from circuit architectures and control schemes for enabling more-electric aircraft to high quality power electronics manufacturing methods. These forums for technical exchange and networking with researchers from the wider PES community create value for students at UIUC and inspire them to be active PES, PELS, & IAS members. The UIUC chapter also fosters the importance of service for our members by sponsoring several large STEM outreach events. For the last 98 years at UIUC’s Engineering Open House (EOH), the UIUC power and energy group has been teaching the public about the fundamentals of power and energy. Popular demonstrations this year included cooking food on magnetically levitating frying pans, using an exercise bike retro-fitted with a generator and power converters to illuminate LED lights, and launching projectiles with a magnetic ring cannon. Moreover in 2017, a panel discussion at a local café was organized to spark meaningful conversations with adults in the community about both how power and energy impacts their daily lives and how current investments in energy research are helping to ensure our nation’s energy sustainable and secured.

Figure 1: UIUC PELS members teach thousands of Engineering Open House (EOH) participants about the fundamentals of power and energy with exhibits like a levitating frying pan and magnetic ring cannon.

Moreover, the UIUC chapter also provides members the opportunity to gain valuable leadership experience by organizing and hosting the IEEE Power and Energy Conference at Illinois (PECI). Founded in 2010, PECI is the oldest annual, student-run international conference about power and energy technology. PECI seeks to provide both a forum for students in the early phases of their career to present their research progress to a technical audience of peers, professors and industry researchers and to inspire students to pursue a career in the power and energy field. PECI has grown steadily over the past nine years and had 170 attendees this year from 44 universities in the U.S. and abroad. Although several registration scholarships have been given annually for authors, support from an NSF grant in 2018 written by chapter members enabled 33 non-authors to learn from the conference experience including four students from the Navajo Technical University by covering their registration and accommodation expenses. Centering on the theme “Renewable Integration for a Sustainable Future”, this year’s conference included four inspirational keynote presentations, tutorials on architectures for electric aircraft and HVDC microgrid hardware, a tour of Ameren’s state-of-the-art microgrid facility, thirty-four technical paper presentations and sixteen undergraduate posters. Attendees also had the opportunity to attend a UIUC vs. Purdue basketball game as part of an engaging social event. We hope that the PES, PELS, and IAS communities will help us celebrate the 10th anniversary of the PECI conference in 2019 focusing on “A Reliable, Secure, Low-Carbon Energy Future.”

Figure 2: The Power and Energy Conference at Illinois (PECI) is organized and run entirely by graduate students from the UIUC joint IEEE PES/PELS/IAS chapter.

Paul Pabst, P.E.
IEEE PES Region 4 Representative