SummerSTEM Day Four: Tapping Into the Grid

By Elise Saenger-Heyl

What is “the grid”? While we talk about “the grid” all the time, and hear about it in the news, we are often unaware of the true meaning. During one SummerSTEM group’s day two of immersion, which I was able to join, educators teamed up with ABB to learn more. We discovered that the grid is composed of three parts: power generation, a transmission system, and then a distribution system (i.e. a transformer).

Throughout the day, ABB helped teachers understand the different aspects of power supply, circuits, and how technology positively impacts utilities and repair times. In addition, we were able to witness a demonstration of how technology can respond to a trip in the circuit in 90 milliseconds!

Other parts of the day included an interesting discussion led by a collaborative team from both ABB and the City of Raleigh on sustainability and strategies to make Raleigh a SmartCity. This includes efforts to put in place the NextGen911 system (allowing for texts and video calls to 911), collaboration between transportation and the Waze app (to reduce time in road repair), and progressing on a plan to switch city busses to run on natural gas and then eventually become 100% electric. The City of Raleigh is currently switching wastewater treatment to an anaerobic system, collecting the methane produced in that process, and then using that to produce natural gas for powering vehicles! How smart is that?!

Did you know there are electric race cars? It is called Formula-E and ABB has just partnered with Formula-E to bring attention to electric vehicles and their benefits. Our day ended with an eye-opening discussion about the effects of a growing Electronic Vehicle population. Stimulating great ideas for a PBL unit, we discussed the projected trends of number of Electric Vehicles and the subsequent power that will be needed from the grid supply. Currently, we do not have enough power to sustain the levels needed with an increased Electric Vehicle population. So what will we do? Our answer: ask our students! We look forward to seeing the results of PBLs inspired by the discussions from today!

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