Kenneth Workman: Teaching the Art of Power Systems

Nov. 5, 2009
Power system professionals often refer to the "art and science" of protective relaying. Kenneth Workman, full-time instructor for SEL University, teaches that art and science.

Power system professionals often refer to the "art and science" of protective relaying. Kenneth Workman, full-time instructor for SEL University, teaches that art and science. He instructs SEL University’s power system theory courses, which cover power system analysis and protection, distribution, substation, transmission, generation, and industrial protection systems.

His next course is Generation System Protection (PROT 409), to be held Nov. 16-18 in Las Vegas. The class provides an in-depth study of the methods used in designing complete protection systems for generation systems. Course participants will review: balanced and unbalanced electrical fault analysis in generation plants; review relaying fundamentals applied to generator protection; and review basic digital relay concepts.

“There is a lot more art to protective relaying than people seem to realize, and we tend to want one-size-fits-all solutions. It is more important to understand the underlying concepts—then those will allow you to come up with the best solution for your specific application,” Workman said.

Workman enjoys helping students grasp the “underlying concepts.” He loves presenting students with new topics and ideas and watching them learn.

“You can just see the wheels turning in their minds as they think of ways the material applies to their jobs, and how they can use it to make improvements,” Workman said. “Seeing a student finally grasp a new or difficult concept that they've been struggling with is its own great reward.”

As a full-time instructor for SEL University, Workman can focus all of his energy on teaching power systems topics. This extends from preparation of presentations and beyond, including answering frequent follow-up questions from past students.

“I get to teach a variety of topics on a frequent basis, and I get to learn from the diverse experiences of our students,” he said.

Workman has worked with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories since college graduation. He started as a product engineer, working with recloser and other control products. He has also worked as the product manager for SEL time and communications products.

“My previous experiences as a product engineer and product manager allowed me to see into some of the aspects of power system operation and applications,” Workman said “They helped me to better understand the needs of our students. They are going to go back to work and try to apply what we've taught to their jobs. Understanding what they do helps me to tailor my teaching to provide them with the greatest benefit possible.”

Workman earned his B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He went into power systems after he began to tire of programming. “It seemed like every area of study eventually reduced to writing a program. My first power systems class felt real and useful, and it permeates every aspect of our society.”

Workman made the move to SEL University because he found that he loved interacting with customers. He likes to learn about their challenges, victories and innovations.

“There is a lot of talent retiring, and not many universities are producing students to fill the gaps. SELU is doing exactly what our motto says—we're ‘training the next generation of power systems engineers,’” he said.

He is also training the next generation of Workmans: he spends as much spare time as possible with his four children and his wife. “It helps me unwind, and I find it very rewarding,” he said. But when the kids are in bed, he likes to read sci-fi and fantasy and play computer games.

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