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High school students attending career day at PEC
The future looks bright: Meet seven of the next generation’s potential engineers.
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PEC’s engineers host students for career day

Nov 10, 2017

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PEC Engineering VP Paul Lochte talks to area students

PEC Interim Vice President of Engineering Paul Lochte explains the diversity of options available in the engineering field.
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PEC's Engineering team hosted seven high school juniors from Marble Falls High School and Faith Academy for a career day on Nov. 2. The students were treated to a morning-long exploration of the many career paths available for engineers at the cooperative, including personal job chats with eight PEC engineers and a tour of PEC's control center.

"I've always had a passion for engineering," Faith Academy student James Hoover said. "Since early childhood, I've been building things with my dad and my mom. Now that I'm older, I'm getting into more technical stuff."

The technical element was on full display for the teens, who talked with PEC Interim Vice President of Engineering Paul Lochte and others about career paths in engineering, including grid modernization and automation, substation design, voltage regulation and mapping and planning. Throughout, the PEC engineers peppered their high-level overview with invaluable practical tips and personal stories earned through years of experience.

"Take your engineering certification exams right out of college," Lochte advised. "That way, the material is still fresh in your mind."

"Those tests he's talking about are no joke," PEC Grid Modernization and Utility Automation Director Daren Curry warned. "They're eight hours long. Each."

True to the electric industry, the engineers also presented plenty of shock and awe along with the practical advice. Curry regaled the students with dramatic retellings of encountering arcing equipment, and PEC Engineer Nick Amidei explained safety hazards in the field.

"When we're out in the field, we're not allowed to wear wedding rings or belts, because the electricity will heat up the metal until it's molten and can burn them straight off," Amidei said.

At the end of the day, the clear favorite among the students was the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) room, the control center in which operators and dispatchers work around the clock to remotely monitor every line and breaker in PEC's 8,100-square-mile electrical system.

"It felt like we were at NASA," Marble Falls High School student Hunter Cruse said. "It was so high tech."

PEC SCADA Operations Manager Zack DeLeon, who provided a guided tour of the SCADA room, inspired the students by explaining that the paths to a career in SCADA are diverse. His current team includes former lineworkers, a district planner, an Army-educated armament electrician and even former member services agents who fell in love with the technical side of the job.

At the end of an exciting morning, the students — many of whom began the day by noting that they were "still considering" options for college — left with a new outlook and new ideas about their futures.

"I've always been interested in engineering," said Marble Falls High School student Samuel Haywood, who credits his father with encouraging his passion. "When I got to PEC [today], I didn't think I was really interested in electrical engineering. But I went through this whole tour, and I'm pretty into it now."

As far as the PEC staff were concerned, it was just great to meet the next generation of potential engineers.

"We are thrilled that PEC Engineering can be a part of two local high school career day offerings," PEC Executive Assistant Audri Nelson said. "This is a fun opportunity for us to be able to give back to our community as we hope to enlighten students on future career possibilities."

Want a sneak peek of the high-tech SCADA room Read about its operators and see if you can interpret the secret language of its alarms »

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