T&D World Magazine

Chris Brooks: A Giving Engineer

When Chris Brooks sees an educational need in the industry, he tries to fulfill it. He would rather give than take and likes to see others succeed. This philosophy has made him successful as an instructor and as an engineer.

Brooks is a senior consultant at S&C Electric Co., developing and supporting power systems services nationally out of the Atlanta, Georgia. He is currently in the middle of project work, but is also developing and teaching several training and seminar courses on such subjects as the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC), arc flash, and distribution planning and design.

“To be a giving person is much-much more fulfilling in life than being a taking person. In my current position I am finding great fulfillment in doing instruction, while also being a student, always learning, and then using that knowledge to help my company earn the income they need to prosper. They prosper, and I will prosper,” Brooks said.

Brooks’ professional experience in the industry has helped him shape his academic side. “From my current position I get to see many different things that are happening in the power industry today,” he said. “That lends itself to seeing the educational needs of our industry. If you see what folks are struggling to understand--or you hear about the struggles that are out there-- then it provides an opportunity to address it.”

Brooks is teaching several upcoming courses, including an NESC review course, a distribution overcurrent seminar, and an arc flash for utilities class. Brooks will lead the “Distribution Overcurrent Protection and Coordination” seminar with Jim Niemira, senior engineer for Power Systems Services at S&C Electric, next week, June 11-13, in Chicago. This two-and-one-half-day seminar instructs students on the selection and application of overcurrent protective devices for use in medium-voltage electric power distribution systems.

Brooks’ NESC course (Sept 17-18) provides a review of the entire 2007 NESC Code Book including insights that will help utility personnel understand it better and encourage its common use in everyday practice. With the recent release of the 2007 revision, there is now an urgent need to become familiar with the latest version of the NESC Code Book and move to implement its changes. Day one of this two-day seminar includes an overview of the code that will build a good understanding of its framework and content. The second day will then emphasize many key details, including a good coverage of the 2007 NESC changes.

Brooks is always looking for what he can convert from a difficult topic to an understandable topic. His teaching methodology puts the students first. “I believe teaching is a mix of your personality and developed skill. Without a basic instinct to help and nurture others, you will not be effective. You have to see them as being first in the learning process.”

He said that instructors should continually work hard to find better ways to help students understand the material.

“I have always measured my success by the grades of my students. Granted, I graded the student work, but they made the grade they deserved,” Brooks said. “As a true professional in instruction, you always hunger for those students who, at the end of the course, personally say that they really enjoyed it and learned a lot from it.”

Of course, he is always learning, from experience and from being an instructor. “I am always the student; you never arrive.” He earned his degrees in Indiana; a B.S and M.S. in electrical engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Indiana University.

Brooks grew up in a technology-oriented family. His father is an engineer, and Brooks said that engineering was a career where “one could build a good future for yourself and your nation. (Those were the space race days.) You could be a clear contributor to society and mankind as a whole.”

He started teaching when he became a teaching assistant at Purdue while working on his masters. Then about 18 years ago, he taught at the bachelors and masters college level in the evenings at Indiana Wesleyan University. “I excelled at it, and found that at the end of an evening I had more energy than when I started. I have been teaching ever since,” Brooks said.

Brooks’ professional experience now includes more than 25 years, with a background in T&D management, engineering, research, planning, design, consulting, and training, both domestic and international. He also has experience in transformer design and manufacturing. Most of his career was with Westinghouse Electric Corp. and ABB, performing and managing engineering and design projects for major U.S. and international utilities and research organizations. More recently he was the engineering manager for a rural electric cooperative utility, followed by several years as the director of engineering of a consulting firm that targeted coop and municipal customers.

He encourages other engineers to learn different topics and disciplines. “As a learner in the beginning, in order to advance, you have to follow the rules and discipline yourself to learn and develop your career. As a senior person, to advance in knowledge, you have to break the rules. Obviously, not in a social way, but in the light of creative thinking, thinking outside-of-the-box--or from different perspectives,” he said.

Even though Brooks at times does not steer far from his job in his spare time—he likes building his own computers—he does enjoy gardening and outdoors. He also enjoys ice skating and biking.

He attributes his success and talents to God: “I believe all my knowledge and capability to do what I do would not be possible, without honoring my Creator. That perspective gives me the freedom to learn and develop and enjoy the work I do, and to understand and care about those I work with and instruct.”

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