by Benny Lin, 12th grade
Over the summer, I had the opportunity of being an intern at Entergy. My main job was just warehouse upkeep. Basically, I kept inventory of every tool and device they had there, from transformers to small bolts. I learned about a lot of components dealing with electricity. There was just so much information in each individual part. Transformers, for example, have 90% of their weight from mineral oil. A fuse in power plant is an actual physical lock that breaks once electrical capacity is met. I learned just more than about the parts too. During my time at Entergy, I was exposed to all aspects of the company. My boss took me on tours to the other parts of the company. I traveled to the different stations of Entergy and learned how each played a role in distribution. For example, if a station in Pearl had ran out of bolts or transformers, the needed parts would be sent from the warehouse in Jackson to Pearl. I also learned how Entergy responds to disasters. What really surprised me was how a relief effort in Louisiana still had to coordinate with a power grid in Illinois. However, the most fun I had while working at Entergy was working alongside the electrical engineers there. There was just so much an engineer had to do. I had to go out and survey job sites. There were schematics to be drawn and federal agencies to be called. Different departments within Entergy were often involved in one job request. I learned so much about how electricity is distributed while working with Entergy. The engineers taught me the nuances of how power is produced and distributed across the nation. Everything in the nation is connected in a power grid. When New Orleans needs more power, it’s not uncommon for a power plant in Maine to produce more power in order to compensate. As more stress occurs in one area, electricity will be generated in an area with less stress in order to help alleviate the situation and prevent a blowout. When a blowout does occur, electricity must still have a path to travel. This causes more stress to occur on other power lines, potentially causing a domino effect. The US power grid could be wiped out in a day because of interconnections. It’s a double edged sword. On one hand, interconnections help reduce stress while on the other, interconnections increase the risk of catastrophe. I learned more about how engineers operate in the age of computing. Today, engineers are needed more for their knowledge and understanding of mechanics rather than their prowess in calculations. Most of the electrical engineers I worked with simply input data into a spreadsheet and got the type of transformer to use, cable type, and even pole length for a specific job. All calculations were done by the computer. However, it was an engineer’s job to determine whether those calculations were reasonable. Sometimes, especially for rural areas, the computer wouldn’t be able to correctly identify what equipment to use. The engineers would have to determine by themselves if a computer was reasonable or completely inaccurate. If it was inaccurate, the engineers would have to know how to fix it.