Penn State Harrisburg

Industry support funds lab, prepares students for utility jobs

Students examine equipment at the PPL Electric Utilities Power Laboratory

Students examine equipment at the PPL Electric Utilities Power Laboratory


Penn State Harrisburg engineering students planning careers in the electric utility industry will have an edge on the competition when they graduate, thanks to nearly $200,000 in gifts of software, equipment, and financial support from PPL Corporation and leading electric utility suppliers.  The PPL Electric Utilities Power Laboratory on campus offers students hands-on training with the same equipment utility companies use to control and protect the nation’s power systems.

“Led by PPL, several companies have generously contributed to Penn State Harrisburg, enabling us to continue to build our reputation as a center for the study of energy systems and as a key provider of employees for the utility industry,” said Chancellor Mukund Kulkarni.  “We are grateful to PPL for taking the lead on this project, and to ABB, Inc.;  NovaTech, LLC and  Bitronics, LLC; Operation Technology, Inc.;  and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. These companies have not only donated equipment and other teaching and learning tools to the college, but they also provide training and seminars to our faculty and staff and internship experiences for our students.”

According to Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Peter Idowu, access to industry standard equipment helps to shape curriculum and provides students with invaluable hands-on learning opportunities. “We now are designing senior projects around the equipment, incorporating use of it into our courses, and using it to conduct experiments,” Idowu said. “Previously in a power systems analysis course, for example, students could learn about system dynamics using only software simulations. Now, students can learn directly, on the very same systems used by the industry to protect and ensure the reliability of the nation’s power grid. Students with this direct experience benefit the industry as well. When they are hired after graduation, they can hit the ground running.”

Jerry Shoup, director of the college’s School of Science, Engineering, and Technology, said, “Penn State Harrisburg is the only accredited program in the region that offers power engineering courses. Our relationships with private industry, such as our partnership with PPL, are crucial to sustaining our ability to provide aspiring engineers with the knowledge and practical experience needed in the field.”

The laboratory, located on the lower level of Penn State Harrisburg’s Olmsted Building, was dedicated in April 2011. The corporate partners who contributed to the project represent a range of industries.  PPL Corporation, based in Allentown, Pa., owns generating capacity in the United States, sells energy in key U.S. markets, and delivers electricity and natural gas to millions of customers in the U.S. and abroad. ABB, Inc., of Lake Mary, Fla., is a global leader in power and automation technologies for utilities and other industries.  NovaTech, LLC, Quakertown, Pa., and Bitronics, LLC, Bethlehem, Pa., provide measurement, automation, and integration solutions for electric utilities. Operation Technology, Inc., of Irvine, Ca., is the developer of ETAP, a comprehensive power system software.  Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, based in Pullman, Wash., designs, manufactures, and supports products and services for protection, automation, and control in the electrical utility industry.

Gifts from corporate partners count toward the goals of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. This University-wide effort is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality. The campaign’s top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014.