Grand Opening of the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Power-System Labs

Dean Dan Trudnowski cutting the ribbon for the new Sweitzer Electrical Engineering Lab
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories staff look on as Montana Technological University  Chancellor Les P. Cook and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories CEO Dave Whitehead hold the ribbon for Dean Dan Trudnowski to officially open the new SEL Power-Systems Labs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021, a team from Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) visited the Montana Technological University campus to officially open the new SEL Power-Systems Labs. The labs are housed on campus in the Natural Resource Research Center.

Schweitzer Engineering LabMade possible by a $1.5 million donation from SEL and guidance from their team, the SEL Power-Systems Labs will allow Electrical Engineering students to experience hands-on learning to complement what they learn in class. The SEL Power-Systems Labs include a protection lab, an energy conversion lab, a power plant lab, plus a training and learning lab.
As SEL CEO, Dave Whitehead shared, “We sit in a classroom, and we read the books on how things are supposed to work. What labs really do is cement that classroom learning. The equipment in the lab is exactly what you would see in a substation. So to learn how to protect a power line we learn in the classroom and then figure how to take those settings or that particular knowledge and apply it on a piece of equipment, you need hands-on equipment.̶

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories representatives
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories representatives including CEO
Dave Whitehead, Lead Power Engineer Cole Salo '09,
Lead Development Engineer Brian Smyth '07, Montana Tech
Associate Professor Josh Wold '09, Product Engineer
Greg Smelich '08 and '11, and Vice President Automation and Communication
Dr. Ryan Bradetich.

Few labs exist that can provide the exposure to working with high voltage systems, primarily because of expense and safety issues if not done correctly. School of Mines and Engineering Dean Dan Trudnowski added, “Because high-voltage power engineering is inherently dangerous, it's very hard to teach a lot of the concepts, and designing a lab is very expensive to do safely and realistically. So our students will have a very unique experience.”

Working with SEL has provided a niche for Montana Technological University students in the area of power protection.  Over the last seven years, SEL has partnered with Montana Technological University to offer a power-system protection class. During that time, SEL has hired over 20 Montana Technological University students.

This is an example of a program of distinction that is made possible because of the exceptional work by the Montana Technological University Electrical Engineering department and an outstanding and willing industry partnership with SEL.

gratitude of studentsCurrently, the Montana Tech Electrical Engineering program graduates around 15 students this year. With the new SEL Power-Systems Labs Dean Trudnowski expects to see that number increase, with room to expand. Looking towards the future, Dean Trudnowski says the goal is to be the top school in the United States for power technologies.

Chancellor Les P. Cook thanked SEL for their investment and commitment to Montana Technological University and our students, saying "Today we are proud to celebrate you and our ongoing partnership. Montana Technological University is an institution of opportunities and innovation and we know SEL shares these values.Thank you for your commitment to us and thank you for lighting the world."