Schalmont students learn the inner workings of the power grid

May 23, 2017 02:35 PM

High school juniors have a lot of decisions to make in the next year. Most are directly related to college and career. So this may be the best time for a field trip. One engineering class recently did just that, visiting the power grid.

Juniors from Schalmont High School recently saw the direct application of science, technology, engineering and math. They visited the New York Independent Systems Operator, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2014. It runs the power grid.

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"It definitely interests me a lot," said Caroline Gillooley, one of the students. "Coming here today you see what we learned in class, how it relates to the real world."

"I would feel I would need to learn a whole lot of computer science stuff, ‘cause I saw all the stuff that was going on in the control room,” said Devyn Smith.

Brad Jones, who ran the grid in Austin, Texas, is the CEO. He tells the kids it's much more than wires connected and switches flipped.

"Meaning that when you turn on a light switch at your home, somewhere in this building an operator is instructing a generator to increase their output so your light can get turned on instantaneously," said Jones.

WEB EXTRA: How running the power grid is like conducting an orchestra

Part of the presentation is using a simple pinwheel, some basic charts and even role-playing to show how systems work together when there is a draw for more power.

“We want these students to develop a passion for engineering and we want to try to expose them to as many different engineering possibilities as possible," said Anthony Cassale, a Schalmont teacher.

"Maybe computer coding is a little bit confusing, ‘cause it's kind of like learning a whole other language, but some of the stuff about computer science or engineering and problem-solving, that kind of interests me a little bit," said Justin Marotta, another Schalmont student.

"My message is that engineering allows you to do so many things, solve so many problems, so it's a surefire way to really set yourself on the right path," said Emilie Nelson, the vice-president of market operations.


WNYT Staff

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