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Visualizing Power-Quality Phenomena in a Hands-On Electric Power Systems Laboratory

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Energy Conversion and Conservation Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

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Paper Authors


Thomas Vernon Cook University of Pittsburgh

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I am a Electrical Engineering Masters student in the Electric Power program at the University of Pittsburgh. I spent the last year helping to develop a hands on learning environment and curriculum for engineering students of all disciplines. My current research is in power electronic conversion for small spacecraft applications.

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Robert J. Kerestes University of Pittsburgh

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Robert Kerestes, PhD, is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. Robert was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He got his B.S. (2010), his M.S (2012). and his PhD (2014) from the University of Pittsburgh, all with a concentration in electric power systems. Robert’s academic focus is in education as it applies to engineering at the collegiate level. His areas of interest are in electric power systems, in particular, electric machinery and electromagnetics. Robert has worked as a mathematical modeler for Emerson Process Management, working on electric power applications for Emerson’s Ovation Embedded Simulator. Robert also served in the United States Navy as an interior communications electrician from 1998-2002 on active duty and from 2002-2006 in the US Naval Reserves.

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Brandon M. Grainger University of Pittsburgh

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Brandon Grainger, PhD is currently an assistant professor and associate director of the Electric Power Systems laboratory in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), Swanson School of Engineering. He is also an affiliate of the Energy GRID Institute. He holds a PhD in electrical engineering with a specialization in power conversion. He also obtained his master’s degree in electrical engineering and bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (with minor in electrical engineering) all from Pitt. He was also one of the first original R.K. Mellon graduate student fellows through the Center for Energy at Pitt.

Dr. Grainger’s research interests are in electric power conversion, medium to high voltage power electronics (HVDC and STATCOM), general power electronic converter design (topology, controller design, magnetics), resonant converters and high power density design, power semiconductor evaluation (SiC and GaN) and reliability assessment, military power systems, DC system design and protection, fault identification techniques, and power electronics for microgrid applications.

Dr. Grainger has either worked or interned for ABB Corporate Research in Raleigh, NC; ANSYS Inc. in Southpointe, PA; Mitsubishi Electric in Warrendale, PA; Siemens Industry in New Kensington, PA; and has regularly volunteered at Eaton’s Power Systems Experience Center in Warrendale, PA designing electrical demonstrations. In his career thus far, he has contributed to 50+ articles in the general area of electric power engineering (emphasis on electric power conversion) and all of which have been published through the IEEE. Dr. Grainger is a member of the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES), IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS), and Industrial Electronics Society (IES) and is an annual reviewer of various power electronic conferences and transaction articles. Dr. Grainger is a Senior Member of the IEEE and served as the IEEE Pittsburgh PELS Chapter Chair over the last 3 years for which the section has won numerous awards under his leadership.

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A topic in electric power engineering that students commonly struggle with is power quality. Traditional power quality issues such as harmonics, transients, and unbalanced load phenomena are now more noticeable with the introduction of nonlinear components, such as power electronic converters, into electric power system architectures. These equipment interaction concepts are sparsely covered in classes, and are rarely seen in a laboratory setting. Students, especially those graduating with only an undergraduate degree, generally experience these issues when they enter the workforce, having to complete on the job training in order to become comfortable with power quality matters.

A new power quality course was created at the University of Pittsburgh, in the Spring 2018 semester. This course uses a novel approach to teaching students power quality concepts by using an electric power laboratory, designed specifically for undergraduate education. Students work with real electric motors, transformers, variable frequency drives, and DC power electronics to understand the impacts of these loads on a 208Vac, 75kVA rated system. A custom, 5kW rated work bench featuring compact fluorescent loads, as well as traditional single-phase or three-phase linear resistive, capacitive, and inductive loads is also used to highlight the issues of having an unbalanced power system. The student experience is based upon measurement and data acquisition to develop visual frameworks coupled with traditional whiteboard discussions.

This paper contains a description of the course, its learning outcomes, lecture plans, assignments, laboratory experiments, and exam content. Student assessments, evaluations, and opinions are also included to show the benefits of how the class improved student understanding of power quality. A rubric was designed and employed which provides prognostics and analytics about the perceived value of the course. Lastly, a conclusion of the course from the instructor’s point of view, including lessons learned and future improvements is provided.

Cook, T. V., & Kerestes, R. J., & Grainger, B. M. (2019, June), Visualizing Power-Quality Phenomena in a Hands-On Electric Power Systems Laboratory Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida.

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