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Contact Debbie Caudle
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Fax: (208) 282-7929
Email: debrac@uidaho.edu

1776 Science Center Drive, Suite 306
Idaho Falls, Idaho 83402

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Student Weston Ricks in Power Lab with the RTDS Real Time Digital Simulator

They Have the POWER:

Engineers Help Idaho Students Learn About the Power Grid in Real Time

Engineering students at the University of Idaho’s Moscow campus now have the chance to work with real-time power systems, thanks to a distinctive partnership with and a generous donation from POWER Engineers, a leading consulting firm based in Idaho.

The $500,000 gift from POWER will establish a state-of-the-art laboratory with a Real Time Digital Simulator, as well as external voltage and current amplifiers to be used to interface the simulator with actual protection and control devices.

"POWER Engineers’ generosity is driven by recognition of the high caliber of the engineering degree at the University of Idaho and the integral role our graduates play in an increasingly complex business world," said former University of Idaho President Steven Daley-Laursen. "I am grateful that alumni and prominent business leaders are stepping up during this challenging economic time. This gift will help the university continue to prepare a highly skilled power engineering workforce to compete in today's global marketplace."

The partnership between POWER and the university’s Department of Electrical Engineering has established one of the nation’s premier centers for power engineering research, education, and collaboration between industry and academia. The new POWER Center for Engineering at the University of Idaho came online in spring 2009. It will provide students with real-time power systems simulator equipment and training. The technology and skills help students learn to implement and test protection and control hardware while connected to a simulated power system model. Students observe how the control hardware interacts with the power system and learn to design schemes that react to power system failure scenarios that include lightning strikes, natural disasters or even terrorist attacks.

“We are dedicated to increasing opportunities for power engineers in the United States,” said Bill Eisinger, POWER Engineers transmission and distribution vice president and a University of Idaho alumnus. “As an industry leader we need to partner with universities to ensure that the next generation of power engineers is prepared for challenges in the field that include safety, grid modernization, and innovation.” Eisinger also is a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Board and was honored as chair of the College of Engineering's Design EXPO on May 1, 2009.

The donation “brings some of the best technology in the industry into our labs and helps the department continue to provide one of the largest and most extensive power engineering programs, in terms of courses offered, in the United States,” said Brian Johnson, power engineering professor and chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department.

“This gives us capabilities that very few schools anywhere have. Coupled with the proximity of experts in the field – like POWER Engineers – who can give input and feedback, this provides a significant advantage for our students,” Johnson said. “The power engineering program at the University of Idaho has been part of the electrical engineering department since its inception and has a strong reputation as a power program throughout the region.”

The need for advancing the educational environment of power engineering programs is becoming increasingly urgent as the nation is experiencing a shortage of power engineers. Demand for engineers who work on the generation, distribution and transmission of electrical power is expected to grow from 150,000 positions to 175,000 in 2010, according to a report commissioned by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology.

“Supporting the university system and future electrical engineers is vital to the nation and also to POWER Engineers,” said Eisinger. “The University of Idaho is one of our top schools in terms of employee recruitment. This donation has allowed us to continue a strong relationship with the University of Idaho, encourage advancement of future engineers, and provide a state-of-the-art laboratory that can be found at only a handful of universities in the U.S. It is the only facility of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.”

"The gift from POWER Engineers has advanced the college's commitment to programs that foster research excellence,” said Don Blackketter, dean of the College of Engineering. “Through varied programs at all levels, the college is creating a pipeline of engineering and technology experts, beginning in the state’s middle schools and extending beyond graduate studies. We are tremendously appreciative of this generous commitment and look forward to continuing our friendship with exceptional alumni like Bill Eisinger and industry leaders like POWER Engineers."

POWER Engineers also provides an annual payment of $10,000 for operation and maintenance of the new facility. The simulator can be connected directly to power system control and protection equipment, allowing for more thorough testing and training because the user is able to subject the equipment to many realistic conditions.