Professional Development

EPAP funding fuels professional development for students

student tourThe Electrical Power Affiliates Program (EPAP) has opened up many opportunities for Kansas State University students, like power facility tours, industry conventions and job placement after graduation. Many students also find funding for research and other endeavors through the program.

Sarah Kubler, a May 2011 master's graduate in electrical and computer engineering from Chanute, Kan., received EPAP funding for much of her research on computer networking, wind turbines and computer security.

"The Electrical Power Affiliates Program sponsored my first year and a half of research, which led me to research communications systems and networking equipment and the power grid," she said.

kublerKubler went on to work for EPAP partner Burns and McDonnell one month after her May graduation. For Kubler, it was an easy decision to work for the engineering firm.

"They are an employee-owned company and when I interviewed with them, I liked how they treated me," Kubler said. "I respect their work and it fits with my interests."

Burns and McDonnell joined with three fellow power affiliates – Nebraska Public Power District, Omaha Public Power District and Westar Energy – to host facility tours for K-State engineering students and sponsor more than 30 students' travel to the biannual Transmission and Distribution Conference and Exposition in New Orleans.

The 2010 conference, "Smart Solutions for a Changing World," had a special emphasis on the smart grid and its impact on industry and the world's economy.

tourAt a poster session at the conference, several K-State students presented papers on their research involving power delivery and operations. Viet Nguyen, a May 2011 master's graduate in mechanical engineering from Phillipsburg, Kan., took third place in the graduate student poster session.

The conference also featured booths from more than 600 domestic and international power companies and organizations, as well as federal agencies and research facilities. Other events let the K-State students interact with participants from other universities and colleges.

The Electrical Power Affiliates Program has proven invaluable in providing engineering students with real-world professional development opportunities, said Don Gruenbacher, head of the K-State electrical and computer engineering department. 

"We want to get students out to where the jobs might be, because it is a better way to let them see what employment opportunities might involve," he said. "We want to foster those relationships between students and companies."