WMU News

Consumers Energy funds boost power studies

Jan. 4, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- A $30,000 award from the Consumers Energy Foundation of Jackson, Mich., will be used to boost facilities for power engineering education at Western Michigan University.

The grant will support expansion and modernization of the University's Energy Conversion Laboratory in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The lab provides a hands-on opportunity for students to learn the dynamics of power engineering by working with precision instruments that include the latest power generating equipment as well as earlier generations of the equipment. Lab equipment includes generators, dynamometers, oscilloscopes and transformers.

According to Dr. S. Hossein Mousavinezhad, chairperson of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the University has maintained a strong program since the 1970s in the relatively neglected field of power engineering and power electronics. The lab improvements will allow his department to enhance the power engineering option in electrical engineering currently offered at both the bachelor's and master's levels.

Such degrees are in high demand, particularly in a manufacturing environment that requires conversion of energy from electrical to mechanical motion.

"Power electronics comes into play in everything from laptop computers to a manufacturing facility-wherever you need to provide power," he says. "Right now, there's a real shortage of new engineers in that area, and many companies have to recruit employees from China and Russia."

WMU has offered a master's degree in power engineering since 1987 and enrollment in the program has climbed steadily since the early 1990s. Faculty and students in the program often are involved in research and development work with such firms as Consumers Energy, and Mousavinezhad says access to a full range of power generation equipment is critical to students' understanding of the field and how it is changing.

"Our Energy Conversion Laboratory allows us to show students the relationships between the old and new tools of the field. It is very expensive to maintain because these are very precise pieces of equipment that are difficult to manufacture, and replacements are often not readily available."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu


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