It’s not every day that students get to run a power plant— well sort of.
For the past two weeks, students in OSU Institute of Technology’s Power Plant Technology program have had the opportunity to learn the basics of power plant control operations through simulation training offered by Siemens Energy.
The training came about after advisory board member Mitchell Hurt approached the program’s instructors. Hurt is the plant manager of Siemens Energy’s power plant in Pryor.
“He asked if it would be beneficial for our students to get training on a simulator,” said Terry Hanzel, Power Plant instructor. “It took an advisory board member thinking outside the box for this to happen. It’s invaluable to us. It was the industry seeing what we needed and making it happen.”
The simulator runs on a computer program with two students, or control operators, running the fictional plant via two monitors.
“It shows them how to get a plant ready for start up. The monitors that they’re looking at here are what they would really be looking at in a control room,” Hanzel said. “The benefit I see for our students is getting experience in what it looks like in a control room. You might work for two or three years at a plant before getting exposed to this kind of training.”
Graduates from the Power Plant program start out as outside operators who, after three or four years of experience, can then be trained in-house as a control operator.
“Normally employees train in a real power plant, in real time, and the pressure is unbelievable. ” Hanzel said. “To learn in a non-pressured environment, like with this simulator is great. Students get a taste of real-world control room operation.”
Jason Mancini, technical training specialist for Siemens, is finishing up his two-week stint at OSUIT on Nov. 20. It’s the first time he’s taken the simulation program to a college campus.
“Our training isn’t really designed for college; it’s for operators in the field, but this has been great,” Mancini said. “I think it’s really good for them. They get this hands-on look at a control system, and I’m relating it to what they’ll be doing as a field operator.”
It’s been a real education for the students.
“We go over stuff in a book, but actually seeing a turbine ramp up and ramp down and seeing the effects of a trip, it can help you even as an outside operator,” said Power Plant student Ryan Majors.
Mancini hopes this is just his first of many trips to OSUIT.
“The program these students are getting here is excellent. They’re going out into the industry with knowledge and experience. I’m really impressed,” he said. “I hope to come back and spend a solid chunk of time here and make this training part of the curriculum. That will give them a huge advantage.”