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Theory – Practice – Experience: The Engineer’s Power Triangle

As in all other fields of study, a good foundation is required. A poor foundation is like a poorly sharpened knife.

Theory

The choice of a career, most of the time, depends on one’s talents and abilities evaluated and planned long before one graduate from his primary and secondary education.

All professional courses have to start with a good foundation; and instructors, professors and the schools do their best to impart these to students. Some schools do better; reason why employers, most of the time, prefer applicants coming – only – from prestigious schools where the quality of education is well known. But don’t be intimidated, there are so many engineers who graduated from not so well known universities who were better engineers than colleagues who graduated top of the class from prestigious universities. Reason: They never stop studying and learning after college.

Electrical Engineering as your chosen profession requires you to learn the basic scientific theories, facts and principles of electricity. You must be able to derive formulas used extensively in our practice and master symmetrical components: tools that will greatly simplify your analysis of unbalanced three phase power system. Fortunately for us, most of these commonly used electrical formulas do not even require us to use Differential or Integral Calculus. This, of course, is not the case if you are involved in the design of critical electrical or electronic components or circuitries.

Practice

Practice is simply using what you have learned in college. As a trainee or a novice, it gives you the chance to practice what you have learned. Take advantage of that opportunity and never be afraid to ask questions. What is unacceptable is pretending to ask a wise question on subjects you don’t fully understand – yet. You might succeed on some, but sooner, your supervisor and your subordinates will discover your ignorance. Remember: A little knowledge is dangerous! Keep quiet and never be afraid to ask questions. Your supervisor and even your subordinate – who might not be an engineer, but a very experienced Master Electrician – will understand you and might even go out of his way helping and assisting you. Humility is still one’s best asset to learning.

Experience

1. Experience is simply a continuity of learning new things. As an example, your past project was just a simple 400/220Volts, 3Ph/1ph power supply system for a small industrial plant. Now, suddenly, you have a big industrial project that requires a 3ph, 34.5kV incomer, a 5MVA, 34.5/4.16kV transformer, a 4.16kV, 4-Bay Switchgear with the two bays of the switchgear reserved for the 2-4.16kV/400V/220 transformers and the fourth bay reserved as a tie breaker for a future project site.

You now find yourself challenged, a bit nervous and unsure of yourself; however, you know that your first move is how to configure the system. Take note of the transformer’s winding configurations (wye-delta, wye-wye) since your instrument transformer connection configurations also depend on them. After you have a conceptual design you know that your next move would be to make some simple short circuit calculations; study medium voltage switchgears; study the system protection devices and their associated CTs and PTs, instrumentation and control for the system and, last but not the least, don’t neglect the grounding system. Grounding system is sometimes referred to as electrical engineering’s most neglected subject.

These tasks look daunting at first, but as you go along, probably in just less than three weeks or so, you will gain enough confidence to undergo the overall design of the system and gaining so much needed new experience.

2. Your new project might not be as big as the last one, but now your company asks you to prepare the bid drawings and the Technical Specification for your company’s expansion project. Again you are at lost, but fear not! Writing Technical Specifications is much simpler than writing an essay. All you need is a good sample specification, downloadable from the sites of electrical equipment manufacturers for you to edit and serve your requirements. No worry, company engineering design sections usually have specifications specialists to check and edit your work and also the work of other disciplines (architectural, civil, mechanical.