Master Course Syllabus for EE 456 (ABET sheet)


Credits: 4

UW Course Catalog Description

Coordinator: Richard D. Christie, Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering

Goals: This course provides seniors majoring in the power and energy specialty and practicing engineers with skills in handling open-ended design problems in large scale power systems.

Objectives: At the end of this course, students will be able to

  1. Propose, formulate and solve open-ended design problems in the power systems area.
  2. Write formal project reports.
  3. Make formal project presentations.
  4. Work in teams with heterogeneous knowledge and skills.
  5. Apply engineering economics, power flow, and stability analysis computer tools to support design solutions.
  6. Demonstrate an awareness of current issues in power system design.

Textbook: Class notes, technical papers and reports.


  1. Writing in the Technical Fields, by Mike Markel, IEEE Publication
  2. Writing Reports to Get Results, by Ron S. Blicq and Lisa A. Moretto, IEEE Publication

Prerequisites by Topic:

  1. Elementary power and energy concepts
  2. Steady-state and/or dynamic analysis of power systems
  3. Computer literacy with word processing, presentation and spreadsheet software, and running applications.


  1. Design in Power Systems - 1 week
  2. Design of a Wind Farm Collector System - 3 weeks
  3. Design of a Transmission System Expansion - 3 weeks
  4. Design for Stability and Economics - 4 weeks

Course Structure: The class meets for two lectures a week, each consisting of two 50-minute sessions. For a few weeks weekly homework is assigned, and there may be weekly quizzes. After project work starts, students work in teams. There are weekly project review meetings with each team, and seminars on relevant topics during scheduled class meeting times. A written and oral project report from each team is due for each of three projects, with the last at the end of the course. There is no final.

Computer Resources: Homework and software projects can be done on a PC. Analytical tools (programs) are provided to the students. Only minimal programming is required. For example, students may have to set up present worth calculations in a spreadsheet. Individual project presentations are made using on-line computer projection systems.

Grading: Project work accounts for the vast majority of the course grade. Homework and quizzes account for the rest.

Laboratory Resources: None.

Outcome Coverage: This course provides the ABET major design experience and addresses all of the basic ABET outcomes.


A. (M) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering. The design of electric power systems by its very nature demands constant use of knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering. The various components of the design interact in ways based on science, and described mathematically. The design of a system to a given set of objectives is a fundamental application of engineering knowledge. This, a successful design shows the student's achievement of this outcome.

B. (M) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data. The design process has an analysis step in which the students must design and conduct experiments, and interpret the results to determine whether their design meets specifications. This process occurs many times in the course of the design process, and is documented in the project report.

C. (H) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability. The students are given a set of specifications imposing realistic constraints for an example power system and, in separate projects, asked to develop a wind farm collector system design, a steady state power flow based transmission reinforcement plan, and a stability improvement plan that optimizes power system economics. Students must choose among design alternatives on the basis of economic costs versus environmental, social and political considerations. The choice has ethical implications. A discussion of environmental impacts and mitigation plans is required in one project report. Students are required to conform to relevant portions of engineering standards such as the NERC Transmission Planning Reliability Standard, the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70), and the National Electrical Safety Code. An actual power system cannot be built, and time prohibits the level of detailed physical design (e.g. geographical tower placement, span calculations, substation layout) necessary to ensure that the designed system can be built. Manufacturability is thus necessarily not well met by this course. A one hour seminar is conducted on electromagnetic field health effects. During project presentations the instructor plays the role of the skeptical general public, to reinforce the political considerations involved in the power system planning process.

D. (H) an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams. Students operate in teams of three to solve the design problem and prepare a final report. Students will take different roles in the design team, such as leader, explorer, reflector, or recorder. Rotating leadership is recorded on assignments and progress reports. Team members naturally tend to specialize in one aspect of the design problem, such as security analysis versus economics, creating something of a multi-disciplinary environment within the team.

E. (M) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems. The design problem presents itself as a series of interconnected engineering problems. In the open-ended design environment, the engineering problems are not explicitly stated, but must be identified by the design team before they can be solved. Evidence of this should appear in the project report and progress reports.

F. (L) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility. After project work starts, a one hour seminar on professional ethics covers the IEEE ethics guidelines and some discipline-relevant case studies. Student teams will provide a written analysis of a case study.

G. (H) an ability to communicate effectively. Teams must prepare extensive written project reports for each of three projects, and make an oral presentation each project. Each team member must write a section of the report, and each team member must make part of the presentation. Grades are given for writing quality and presentation quality, as well as technical content of the reports.

H. (M) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context. In seminars, various social impacts of power systems are discussed and described, ranging from market fairness to electromagnetic field concerns. Constraints on the projects include environmental and social concerns. During presentations, the course instructor takes the role of different social groups in asking questions.

I. (M) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning. The course material distributed does not contain all of the information necessary to solve the design problem. Students must consult reference sources and inform themselves concerning certain aspects of the design problem. This helps students realize that they need to be able to learn material on their own, and gives them some of the necessary skills.

J. (H) a knowledge of contemporary issues. The design problem is constructed to focus attention on current power system issues such as deregulation, load growth, and transient stability problems. These will appear in the project report. In addition, seminars later in the class address current issues in power engineering.

K. (M) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice. Students are expected to use spreadsheets to perform economic analysis, and are provided with power flow and stability analysis tools with basic capabilities similar to those of equivalent commercial programs. Evidence of the use of these tools, and associated techniques, appears in the project report.

Preparer: R. D. Christie

Last revised: March 28, 2014