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Dr. Edmond O. Schweitzer III: An Inventor Who Helps Keep the Lights On—in 164 Countries Around the World

Michigan Technological University, at night.

Michigan Tech welcomes to campus today inventor Edmond O. Schweitzer III, recognized as a pioneer in digital protection. 

“Why shouldn’t we invent, and wake up every day wanting to go to work to find a better way to do something for other people?” says global innovator and inventor Dr. Edmond O Schweitzer, III, Chair, President and CEO of Schweitzer Electronics.

Dr. Schweitzer was recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for inventing the first-ever digital protective relay. Digital protective relays detect electrical faults that cause power outages.

The first protective relays relied on coils and were electromagnetic. Schweitzer’s microprocessor-based digital protective relay is multifunctional, protecting power systems, recording data and detecting faults in lines more effectively. “His first revolutionary ‘relays’ came on the market in the 1980s,” said Bruce Mork, electrical engineering professor at Michigan Tech. “The design has led to reduced costs, flexible operation options and increased reliability. The product lines have been enhanced with many patents and with the utilization of today’s smart grid technologies.”

Schweitzer Electronics Laboratories, Inc. (SEL) based in Pullman, Washington is a longtime partner of Michigan Tech—supporting the Power System Protection Lab at Michigan Tech since 1993, and hiring at least 40 Michigan Tech ECE graduates over the years, plus a dozen more students thus far in 2019.

Inventing runs in Schweitzer’s family, and while on campus he will present a lecture on Creativity and Innovation at 4:15 pm in EERC 103. Wednesday’s lecture is open to the public. All are welcome to attend. Schweitzer will also join a roundtable of power companies to discuss Cybersecurity.

Todd Brassard, VP Operations of Calumet Electronics, arranged Dr. Schweitzer’s visit to Michigan Tech. Calumet Electronics Corporation is a key supplier-partner of printed circuit boards (PCBs) to SEL. The company, based in Calumet, Michigan, is an American manufacturer, supplying PCBs for applications demanding zero failures, zero downtime, and requires a lifetime of performance. Celebrating 50 years, Calumet is a critical supplier to mission critical industries including power grid management, , medical device, aerospace, industrial controls, and defense. Calumet is one of the few PCB manufactures who have made a commitment to American manufacturing.

At Michigan Tech, “SEL has supported us for years, incrementally donating lab equipment since 1993 when I started the protection course and lab here on campus,” adds Mork. “I became aware of their new technology and product lines while working as a substation design engineer in Kansas City in the mid-1980s. As a PhD student at North Dakota State University, I facilitated getting it into the labs there, and again at Michigan Tech after I arrived in 1992. I first met Ed when he presented a paper at the American Power Conference in 1993—it’s a paper I still use today when introducing microprocessor-based protection to my students.”

 


Michigan Tech Students Earn First place in ASM International Undergraduate Design Competition

L to R: Advisor Dr. Walt Milligan; student Kyle Hrubecky; William Mahoney, Chief Executive Officer of ASM International; student Erin VanDusen; and advisor Dr. Paul Sanders. Not pictured: students Lucas Itchue and Jacob Thompson.

A team of Michigan Technological University students won first place in ASM International’s 2019 Undergraduate Design Competition. Their capstone senior design project, “Cobalt reduction in Tribaloy T-400,” was sponsored by Winsert, Inc. of Marinette, Wisconsin.

Team members Lucas Itchue, Kyle Hrubecky, Jacob Thompson, and Erin VanDusen—all MSE majors at Michigan Tech—were recognized at a student awards banquet on Monday, September 30 during the Materials Science and Technology (MS&T) Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Winsert currently uses an alloy similar to Tribaloy T-400, a cobalt based alloy, in the production of internal combustion engine valve seats. Cobalt is an expensive element with a rapidly fluctuating price, due to political instability in the primary supplier country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tribaloy T-400 contains approximately 60 wt. percent cobalt, contributing significantly to its price. The student team investigated the replacement of cobalt with other transition elements such as iron, nickel, and aluminum using thermodynamic modeling.

The Michigan Tech undergraduate team’s micrograph of Tribaloy T-400. “Using compositions from literature, we cast this alloy at Michigan Tech. We then examined the microstructure to see if it matched that in literature. That way we knew our casting process was valid and acceptable,” said student Erin VanDusen. “All the casting and imaging was done at Michigan Tech.”

“Michigan Tech was allowed one entry in the competition,” says Michigan Tech MSE Department Chair Stephen Kampe. “The ‘LoCo’ team project was selected by MSE’s External Advisory Board following final student presentations last April. All of our senior design projects use advanced simulation and modeling tools, experimental calibration, and statistical-based analyses of the results,” he explains. “This project utilized CALPHAD (Pandat) with machine learning (Bayesian Optimization) to identify new and promising alloy substitutions. These are very advanced techniques that are rarely introduced at the undergraduate level in most other MSE programs.”

MSE Professor Walt Milligan, Interim Chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology, and Paul Sanders, Patrick Horvath Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, served as team co-advisors.

This isn’t the first time, we’ve won!
According to Kampe, an MSE student team from Michigan Tech team won first place in the ASM International Undergraduate Design Competition last year, too, for their aluminum brake rotor project. Phil Staublin, Josh Dorn, Mark Ilenich, and Aaron Cook developed a new, castable, lightweight high temperature aluminum alloy for project sponsor Ford. “Developmental aluminum rotors have passed every test at Ford Motor Company—all except the extreme ‘Auto Motor and Sport’ test, which subjects the rotors to temperatures above 500 degrees Celsius,” said advisor Paul Sanders. “The team introduced thermally-stable intermetallic phases with high volume fractions that enabled the alloy to provide modest strength for short times at extreme temperatures.” Dr. Tom Wood, Michigan Tech MSE research engineer, also advised the team.

“Michigan Tech’s entry has placed in the top three all but once over the past 8 years at the ASM International Undergraduate Design Competition,” adds Kampe.

“We’re very proud of the world-class senior design projects our students experience,”said Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech. “Where else do teams win first place two years in a row, for alloy design, in an era where it isn’t about randomly mixing elements, but rather, about predictive modeling based on known materials parameters? These projects⁠—they’re centered on fundamentally interesting questions, coupled with faculty and industry expertise. No wonder we’re still the go-to place for materials engineers!”