On August 14, finished my first work period as an engineering co-op student with AEP Transmission. My assignment was in Transmission Field Services (Construction) for Protection and Control (P&C) at the Muncie Service Center in Muncie, Indiana; our station is part of Indiana Michigan Power Company. Field work is full of crises, surprises, and unexpected developments. One colleague summed it up as "Periods of extreme boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror." Allow me to attempt elaboration.
During my interview for the position, I was told that the job was usually 30% inside and 70% outside. That seemed to be the case for me. My 30% indoors was usually spent doing online training materials, doing some bureaucratic chores, and working with the large station prints (all proprietary) of wiring diagrams, panel layouts, and more.
My 70% was exceptional, not least because of the travel: Our service area covered northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and the Indiana-Michigan border zone, although we also went to stations near Terre Haute and Cincinnati. I had occasional overnight trips to Van Wert and Wapakoneta, Ohio, to observe construction and help bring things back into service. I passed through many small towns, learned who some of the big employers were by virtue of their being big customers, and sampled some local color and history. The amount of driving my colleagues do can be grueling.
The work itself varied substantially. In addition to observing construction, usually performed by contractors, I participated in relay calibration, trip and carrier testing, carrier tuning, and troubleshooting of many problems. I chased wires on diagrams to match them to the reality of the yard. In one case, I stripped and snipped wires then crimped lugs. I witnessed arcs and coronas and saw people scramble when faults appeared on the line and to isolate a circuit breaker. I felt the pervasive static beneath a 765kV line.
There was much that I did and saw that left me quite favorably impressed by the field engineers' work. But I was also greatly impressed by the engineers themselves, most of whom I spent much time with on drives to far-flung locations. I left AEP pleased as both a burgeoning electrical engineer and as an AEP shareholder.