I am a Provider
I see the need in power and energy engineering and what the future holds in the industry.
I was a general contractor. I spent eight years building my business and had gotten it to a good place before the economy collapsed. In just six months, I lost my business and my home. With four kids, I had to find a way to provide for my family. I was offered grant money to go back to college and get a degree, so I enrolled at Centralia Community College (now Centralia College).
I initially registered for a two-year, civil engineering tech program, learning AutoCAD. I wasn't particularly interested in that field but I figured I'd build on my construction background. I was doing so well, my professors encouraged me to pursue a four-year general engineering degree. I talked it over with my wife, and we agreed it was in our best interest, long-term.
I needed a way to pay the bills while I was in school so I was looking for a paid internship. A friend serving with me on a local, non-profit advisory board happens to be an electrical engineer and he helped me secure a position with Centralia City Light. Getting exposed to the different types of energy, how it's produced and what's involved, really drew me in and I became fascinated by it. The power industry is about so much more than just poles and power lines.
Getting exposed to the different types of energy, how it's produced and what's involved, really drew me in and I became fascinated by it.
In the meantime, the people running Centralia College's Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy (PNCECE) took an interest in me. I had helped them install a 2500 watt wind turbine and six 200 watt solar panels on campus. Because of that, they sponsored me for IEEE membership and introduced me to the Power and Energy Society (PES). They also encouraged me to apply for the PES scholarship.
I had only heard of IEEE but I quickly learned of all the benefits it could provide me. IEEE has been an invaluable resource in so many ways, allowing me to read about the smart grid and all the changes going on in the field. I used white papers this past semester for a research paper on how microcontrollers are used in smart houses.
Centralia's PNCECE also sponsored my attendance at the PES General Meeting in San Diego in 2012, where I met the current president of PES and several other members of the PES Governing Board. I was able to speak with them on the importance of reaching out to community colleges. It's just amazing what can happen if you apply yourself and get yourself out there.
While I was finishing my associate's degree at Centralia College, I applied to Washington State University-Vancouver and received a two-year, full-ride scholarship to help me complete my four-year degree. I was awarded the PES scholarship just before Christmas, when money was especially tight.
Through my IEEE mentor, I learned about two internship opportunities in Portland. Both were for junior-level students and I was just completing my sophomore year; but with the AutoCAD I learned in community college and my experience at Centralia City Light, I was offered one of the positions.
I'm now mapping out an entire section of the Portland grid using AutoCAD and a couple of other systems. Their map hasn't been updated in a long time, so it isn't very accurate. I'm drawing the conductors and other materials located in all the manholes downtown and looking at how we can improve the overall system. At the end of the school year, I started working with them full-time for the summer.
My kids think
it's cool that
'Daddy is doing homework, too.'
My kids think it's cool that 'Daddy is doing homework, too.' My 8-year-old daughter is totally enamored with the math and science she sees me doing and it has sparked her interest in the energy field. She says, "Can you explain that to me, Dad? How does that work?" And I tell her, "Let's get through your multiplication tables and then I'll explain it to you!"
You know, I'm a family man. After seeing my business collapse, I'm looking for some security. I see the need in power and energy engineering and what the future holds in the industry. The work going on to improve the current grid is going to take a lot of effort over the next 20-plus years. It's going to be a challenge but I love a good challenge.