June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Electrical and Computer
14.108.1 - 14.108.12
A Software Visualization Tool for Power Systems Analysis
This article presents a novel software visualization tool for presenting some power system analysis problems, namely load flow, economic dispatch, and unit commitment in introductory undergraduate electrical engineering courses. The software package uses effective visual simulation tools to enable students to obtain a concrete understanding of the analysis problems and solution algorithms. This project comes as a response to the urgent need for newer, more efficient educational tools to reform the outlook of power engineering education. The visualization tool aids students in quickly obtaining a detailed understanding of the power system analysis problems when used as a supplement to traditional lecture approaches. Therefore it allows for introduction of other demanding topics within the limited time of an undergraduate curriculum. In addition, the software visualization tool enables students to spend more time on power system analysis topics outside the classroom, which have been shown to result in effective learning and development of reflective thinking skills.
An earlier version of the visualization tool presented in this paper was developed using the user interface toolbox (GUIDE) in MATLAB®,1, 2 but this new version is designed and developed using C# to overcome the graphical interface limitations present in the MATLAB® environment. Unlike the previous version which required the MATLAB® environment to run, the new version is completely portable and does not require special software other than an operating system, such as Windows or UNIX. While MATLAB® may be readily available in many of the engineering departments some students cannot afford to install it on their personal computers. By eliminating this issue, the new visualization tool enables students to spend extra time on the treated topics out of the classroom and school premises. In addition, the new version provides more functions that allow students to enhance their understanding of the power system analysis concepts. It also represents a refined design process that makes the visualization tool modular and expandable to other power system concepts.
2.0 The state of power engineering education
Electric power engineering education has been a focus of debate and extensive discussion in the educational and political arenas over the last decade. An IEEE Power Engineering Society (PES) report 3 noted that in the U.S. power engineering programs’ enrollment was low but stable as of 2003. The report also points out that the major long term concern for the US universities is the difficulty in maintaining faculty members and student interest as new technologies emerge and draw attention away from electric power engineering. In response to these reports experts and technical societies such as CIGRE4 and IEEE5 have voiced concerns about the state of power engineering programs. Recognizing the need for drastic and radical modifications very early on, the National Science Foundation initiated in 1997, a new solicitation for research projects aimed at investigating new approaches to teaching power engineering courses6. A number of educators and authors have embraced that initiative, analyzed the situation extensively,7, 8, 9 expressed their concerns, and proposed solutions.
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