The members of the joint IEEE Power and Energy/Power Electronics/Industry Applications (PES/PELS/IAS) Chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign gained valuable leadership experience by organizing and hosting the IEEE Power and Energy Conference at Illinois (PECI), held earlier this year in Urbana, Illinois. Founded in 2010, PECI is the oldest annual, student-run international conference about power and energy technology. PECI provides a forum for students in the early phases of their career to present their research progress to a technical audience of peers, professors, and industry researchers, and also aims to inspire students to pursue a career in the power and energy field. PECI has grown steadily over the past nine years, boasting 170 attendees this year from the United States and abroad, with representatives from industry and 44 different universities.

“Organizing this international conference enables graduate students in the Power and Energy Group at ECE ILLINOIS to learn the importance of professional service first-hand,” said Enver Candan, graduate student and co-chair of the 2017 IEEE PECI. “Our student-led committee also proposes new ways to enrich the networking and professional development opportunities at PECI each year.”

Although several registration scholarships have been given annually for authors, support from an NSF grant in 2018 written by chapter members enabled 33 non-authors to learn from the conference experience, including four students from the Navajo Technical University, by covering their registration and accommodation expenses.

“Conference volunteers gain this valuable experience writing grants, reviewing digests, and handling travel logistics with help from several fantastic mentors, such as Joyce C. Mast and Dr. Peter W. Sauer (Grainger Chair in Electrical Engineering), who go above and beyond to help PECI succeed,” said Mariola Ndrio, graduate student and co-chair of the 2018 IEEE PECI. “All of the hard work required to organize PECI ultimately pays off both technically and socially when conference attendees share feedback about their positive experiences at the conference. Volunteering with PECI during my graduate studies has truly been a fulfilling and rewarding experience.”
“The control, storage, and appropriate utilization of energy is at the core of every system,” said graduate student and fellow Christopher Brandon Barth, co-chair of the 2018 IEEE PECI. “While increasing the penetration of renewable energy resources will reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign energy, what will be the impact of connecting these distributed generators to the aging electrical grid? PECI facilitated a meaningful dialogue about this question throughout the conference.”

Centering on this year’s theme, “Renewable Integration for a Sustainable Future,” the 2018 PECI conference included:
• Four inspirational keynote presentations on humanitarian service (Dr. Henry Louie, Seattle University); career development (Dr. Mariesa Crow, Missouri S&T); and challenges with renewable energy integration (Dr. Stanley Atcitty, Sandia National Laboratory); and control (Dr. Brian Johnson, University of Washington).
• Tutorials on electric aircraft architectures (Dr. Kiruba Sivasubramaniam Haran, ECE ILLINOIS) and HVDC microgrid hardware (Dr. Tomas Modeer, SciBreak AB).
• A tour of Ameren’s state-of-the-art microgrid facility
• Thirty-four technical paper presentations and sixteen undergraduate posters
• The opportunity to attend an Illini vs. Purdue basketball game as part of an engaging social event
“None of PECI’s initiatives would exist without the strong engagement and support from our sponsors,” said graduate student and fellow Thomas Peter Foulkes, president of the IEEE PES/PELS/IAS graduate student chapter at Illinois and the 2018 IEEE PECI corporate relations co-chair. “PECI is blessed every year to have numerous attendees from industry who share insight about industry trends, offer feedback for student presentations, and provide valuable career advice. PECI’s wide variety of professional development and networking opportunities enriched by engagement with industry are the key ingredient to the success of PECI.”
The PECI conference committee expressed their gratitude for the financial and conference support from the Energy, Power, Control and Networks Program of the National Science Foundation, ComEd, Ameren Illinois, Eaton, Power World Corporation, the IEEE Central Illinois Section, Plexim, the Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS) NSF ERC, and additional Power Affiliate Members: Exelon, G&W Electric, MidAmerican Energy, S&C Electric, Sargent & Lundy, Continental Automotive, and City, Water Light & Power. They look forward to celebrating the tenth anniversary of the PECI conference next year, with the theme, “A Reliable, Secure, Low-Carbon Energy Future.”

Article featured in ECE Illinois Written by: Thomas Foulkes and Christopher Barth

Figure 1: PECI is organized and run entirely by graduate students from the Illinois joint IEEE PES/PELS/IAS chapter. (front row, left to right: Derek Chou, Samantha Coday, Mariola Ndrio, Christopher Barth, Cecilia Klauber, Joyce Mast, and Andy Yoon; back row, left to right: Thomas Foulkes, Nathaniel Renner, Jason Galtieri, Samuel Utomi, Adriano Lima Abrantes, Zitao Liao, Enver Candan, Austin Jin, Nathan Brooks, Dipanjan Das, and Avinash Madavan; not pictured: Xuan Yi, Andrew Stillwell, Pei Ng, Joseph Liu, and Jackson Lenz.)

Figure 2: This year’s schedule included a panel discussion with career advice for young professionals

Figure 3: Dr. Atcitty from Sandia National Laboratories

Figure 4: Attendees at the Ameren microgrid