Four ECE students awarded PES Scholarship
Jonathan Damery, ECE ILLINOIS
- Four ECE undergraduates—Michael Goodlow, Carl Haken, Evan Klepitsch, and Fansheng Shi—were awarded scholarships by the IEEE Power and Energy Society Scholarship Plus Initiative.
- The scholarship recognizes students who demonstrate scholastic achievement and is renewable for up to three years.
- To qualify for reapplication each year, the students must participate in summer internships or professional experiences in power-related fields.
Power systems drive our wired world. In some cases, the connection between power production and consumption—the rooftop solar arrays planned for the new ECE building, for example, and the lab spaces inside—are literally footsteps apart. The connections elsewhere may be less apparent, but just as real. The fact that our cellphones and tablets seem only vaguely connected to the power grid—because adapters have gotten smaller and lithium batteries last longer—is simply a testament to the assiduous work of the power engineers who design those systems.
IEEE Power and Energy Society Scholarship Plus Initiative. The scholarship recognizes students in their sophomore year and above and is renewable for three years. The students must demonstrate scholastic achievement, and to qualify for reapplication each year, they must participate in summer internships or professional experiences in power-related fields.
“The summer internship is important because, these days, you can’t get a job without having had some experience,” said Professor Peter W. Sauer, an expert in power systems design. “But it doesn’t have to be a power company like ComEd or Ameren. It could be Frito Lay or BP Amoco…The summer internship itself could be with anybody really, as long as you’re doing something related to power.”
Last summer, Shi, a second-year scholarship recipient, worked for a supercomputing company, developing code to optimize energy efficiency. “As a result of the code tuning, the code will take less computing time and save a lot of energy in the case of scientific research using super computers,” he said. “This job helps me to understand the wide area of energy usages and the importance of power management of any devices.”
While a supercomputing company might not jump to mind as a standard venue for power engineers—at least not as rapidly as solar companies and electric vehicle manufacturers—it highlights the diversity of the careers available to students who pursue and, in the case of these four students, excel at power engineering.
Goodlow first became involved in power engineering during the twelve years he spent in the US Navy, serving as the electrician’s mate on a nuclear submarine. “I found that I had a knack for understanding how electrical machinery worked,” he recalled. “I was happy when I was knee-deep in electrical schematics trying to figure out something I didn't already know, or if I was attempting to repair a malfunctioning piece of equipment.”
Even with their diverse experiences and backgrounds, all of the students were unified in an interest in sustainability and efficient power usage. “I think the most exciting thing happening today in power engineering is the rapidly changing way that we are now looking at green energy,” Goodlow said. “Solar and wind energy systems are becoming more widespread as the costs decrease, and capturing tidal energy with wave systems is a very intriguing new technology.”
Haken, who has recently been working on the battery pack for the department’s CubeSat satellite, agreed that his initial interest in power engineering stemmed from sustainability concerns. “I grew up going hiking and camping with my family on a very regular basis…[and] I want the places I've visited to still be around for future generations,” he said. “Having said that, the energy needs of our society are not going to suddenly disappear.” That means that power systems must become smarter and more efficient.
Within the university, another emphasis for this green-technology research has been a continued push for a smart grid that can accurately distribute and monitor power resources, automatically coordinating power production—wind turbines, for example—to meet usage needs. “The smart grid is a clever thing that stuck. Sometimes things come and go, but the smart grid has been here for four or five years, and it’s not going away,” Sauer said. “It involves control systems; it involves communications, computer control, signal processing… it uses everything we use in electrical engineering and computer engineering.”
Regardless of the work they pursue from here—whether it pertains to the smart grid or electric cars, supercomputing or satellites—all four of these students demonstrate a drive and passion for power engineering. Summing up the sentiment for receiving the award, Goodlow added, “The PES scholarship is important to me because I've always been planning on focusing in the power field, and it is sort of a ‘validation’ that I am doing the right things to be noticed by others in the same field.”