Students Turn Old Generator into Instruction Tool

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff December 30, 2004

Four students in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Electric Power Generation Technology major recently refitted a new control panel onto an obsolescent generator, producing a piece of up-to-date instructional equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars.

With the upgrade, the program’s 1980s-era Caterpillar 3208 generator, donated by a local dealer when the associate-degree program first was offered in 2001, can now be programmed to different parameters to match the engine.

“This was a great project—now and for the future,” said Kenneth C. Kuhns, assistant professor of electrical technology/occupations at Penn College.

More specifically, Kuhn explained, students can learn how to get in and out of various modes of operation that the control panel offers. These modes help the students troubleshoot and diagnose engine and generator problems.

“This up-to-date control panel can now be used to train future power-generation students,” he says.

Kuhns added the “new” equipment rivals the two-year-old technology in Penn College’s Student and Administrative Services Center at the Main Campus entrance. “With the improved control panel, the 175,000-watt generator could provide enough emergency power to serve that three-story building, as well as a number of residential properties,” boasts Kuhns.

The professor’s pride in the group’s work is obvious, as he recounts the students’ after-hours dedication. The students—Jeremy L. Benjamin, Andrew J. Benvenuto, Joseph A. Duskasky, and Matthew J. Strine—learned everything from designing and building a mounting bracket unique to future training needs to rerouting the new wiring harness while maintaining the standard wiring methods that are incorporated in the more modern industrial generator sets.

“This was an opportunity for us to really get a firm understanding of how common generator controls work and are constructed,” Strine said. “There really weren’t step-by-step instructions that we followed; with the help of Mr. Kuhns and some industry professionals, we made a game plan for what we had to do — and we did it.”

The Electric Power Generation Technology curriculum includes courses from the Electrical Technology department in Penn College’s School of Construction and Design Technologies and the Diesel Technology department in the School of Natural Resources Management. For more information visit . Also see the August issue of CSE for this month’s Management Report, featuring another installment of “Campus Report.”