Electrical Power program recharges student’s career

Gabriel Altman, Electrical Power Technology program graduate
Gabriel Altman, Electrical Power Technology program graduate and summer intern at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Gabriel Altman is finishing a prestigious, career-launching internship this week, and he credits PBSC’s Electrical Power Technology A.S. degree program for the opportunity.

Although Altman has a master’s degree in horticultural science from the University of Florida, by his late thirties, he knew his career needed a reboot. His interest in renewable energy led him to the EPT program, which prepares students to work with the instrumentation and controls used in power generation, renewable energy plants, smart grid systems, aerospace manufacturing and more.

The EPT program, in turn, opened the door to the Community College Internship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. CCI encourages community college students to pursue energy careers by providing technical training experiences at DOE laboratories. Altman is the first PBSC student to be selected for this competitive paid internship.

“I would never have been invited to participate in this internship this summer if I hadn’t completed the EPT program,” said Altman, who graduated from the program in December 2016.

DOE gave Altman his first choice of labs—the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

During the internship, Altman collaborated with NREL researchers to design, program and build electrolysis durability testing stations. Electrolyzers are used to convert solar and wind energy into hydrogen for fuel cells, which can power anything from electric cars to electric grids. The testing stations will allow researchers to identify the best ways to achieve economical, large-scale production of hydrogen from renewable energy sources. Altman gained experience in developing software to automate and monitor the testing stations, ensuring safe operation while collecting and analyzing data. He presented his research on Aug. 9 at the NREL Summer Internship Poster Session as one of 78 interns chosen out of 236 from eight different NREL internship programs and others, including a National Science Foundation program. The interns came from across the U.S. and included five in the CCI program as well as varying numbers of undergraduate and graduate student interns, and K-12 and university faculty interns.

When not in the NREL lab, Altman has enjoyed riding his bike in the Rocky Mountains.

Since his PBSC graduation, Altman has been accepted at seven university engineering programs. He hopes to transition into a job at NREL, and so he will choose either Colorado School of Mines or the University of Colorado at Boulder. He plans to pursue a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering.

Goodbye math anxiety
Altman has wanted to be an engineer since childhood, but he had always struggled with math. The EPT program also rid Altman of his math anxiety.

“They started me at a point where I could build my foundation,” Altman said. “Once you have a solid foundation to build on, and you have the desire to study really hard, and you have resources like the Student Learning Center to help, math becomes a completely accessible language. It’s no longer this mysterious barrier that was in front of me all of my life, saying ‘you’ll never go to engineering school because you’re incapable of doing advanced mathematics.’ It just wasn’t true. Now I’m not only comfortable with math, it turns out I’m actually pretty good at it. I got an ‘A’ in every math course I took at PBSC.

“The EPT program was a complete life-changer for me,” Altman continued. “I went into it with very little earning potential—my career was going absolutely nowhere—and it has completely changed my prospects for the rest of my life. This program can take you just about anywhere, and all the resources that you could ever want are there for you. It was the best time and money I’ve ever invested in my education. I can’t say enough good things about Professor Oleg Andric and the EPT program.”

Learn more about the Electrical Power Technology program.

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