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New Pitt lab to aid training of electrical engineers

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 5:36 p.m.

The electrical engineers of the next generation will face major challenges when they become guardians of the nation's electrical power grid.

But University of Pittsburgh graduates may have a leg up, thanks to a $1 million-plus electrical power systems lab that debuted Thursday.

The lab in Benedum Hall is the product of an ongoing partnership between Pitt and Eaton Corporation, which helped design the facility and donated the equipment. The 1,500-square-foot facility will provide electric power engineering students with experience using equipment that industrial companies use, as well as a state-of-the-art center for research, said Pitt professor Gregory Reed.

Pitt students were in awe of the new facility.

“This is a beautiful lab. Everyone was amazed about getting it. This is hands-on learning,” said Natalie Janosik, a sophomore electrical engineering major.

Revathi Advaithi, president of Eaton's American electrical sector, said the company sees its investment in the lab as part of an ongoing effort to help develop Pittsburgh as an energy hub of the future.

“Eaton's mission is to create an area where the future of energy management from traditional and emerging sources comes together,” she said.

Reed said research capabilities in the lab, which is hooked to solar panels on the roof of Benedum Hall, could help lay the groundwork in areas such as microgrid development, smart grid technologies, energy management and storage, renewable energy and emerging electric power technologies.

“Universities typically (own) donated equipment that was 30 years old when it was donated. This lab has new equipment that will be used for the next 20 years,” said Dan Carnovale, an Eaton executive who helped Pitt students and researchers design the facility.

That could be crucial in a field in which up to half of working engineers are expected to retire in the next decade, leaving a new generation to guard the nation's aging power grid from both terrorist attacks and its own vulnerabilities.

“Our nation's energy grid is at a crossroads and its security will depend on how we manage a system built in the 20th century with 19th-century technology,” said Gerald Holder, the dean of Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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