Magic Wheelchair RRC

Engineering Magic for a Child

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“We all have a desire to see children succeed,” explains Logan Russell, RRC Electrical Design Engineer, “and because we are making this for a child with disabilities, it is especially rewarding to provide them an opportunity they would not otherwise have, with something unique built just for them.”

Four of our Tualatin, OR employees, Logan Russell, Nicole Wehner, John Moffit, and Tanya Johnston are donating their time and imagination to Magic Wheelchair, a nonprofit organization that organizes volunteers to transform the wheelchair of a child. The recipient is able to choose which character or theme they like and the build team sets to work!

Team RRC will be designing for Jesse, a 12 years old, who wanted his chair transformed into a spy smart car! Jesse unveiled his new wheels February 18, 2017 at Wizard World Comic Con in Portland, OR. The spy car is equipped with features even James Bond would envy including electrical components and a working radio.

“Our company encourages and supports us to do volunteer work, especially in our own community,” adds Logan. “Volunteering with Magic Wheelchair provides a great way for us to help children using our skills in electrical engineering.”10for10

In honor of RRC’s 10 year anniversary, the company is offering a year long volunteering program called “10 for 10”. The program gives employees, like the build team from Tualatin, the opportunity to volunteer 10 hours of service in honor of our 10 years in service.

The organization and RRC’s build group were featured in the local Tualatin paper, Tualatin Life. Read the feature here.

To learn more about Magic Wheelchair, visit their website.

Congratulations to everyone that participated!

 

 

Industry Insights

Managing Aging Assets

By Joshua Smith, RRC Substation Group Manager

We live in the era of an aging workforce and aging assets. These two make for a dangerous combination. Highly experienced people are leaving the workforce and taking with them the institutional knowledge that helps keep the aging assets online. Specialized forecasting skills were not needed to predict this, we knew this was coming, but what have we done about it?

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I worked various roles for a large electrical utility. My two years in Asset Management performing asset risk assessment taught me that the energy infrastructure has aged, and not like a fine wine. Most, if not all, utilities know this is a challenge, but how many have taken steps to mitigate the risks posed by this challenge? There is a lack of people with the needed skills and knowledge to replace the retiring work force. There is already such a large hole that many utilities find themselves in reaction only mode. But what is needed is strategic planning to address the short and the long term, not just the right now.

Plans need to be developed by examining the system and looking at the potential for equipment to fail. Every utility has equipment they are working diligently to replace now, but what is the next group of equipment that will fail? If time is taken to examine this question, the answer is not difficult to obtain. More questions should be asked, questions like: How old is that “old” transformer? Are there a number of transformers that same age? How many solid-state relays are still in the system? Has maintenance been deferred, and how many times? What groups of equipment are beginning to fail?

Answers to these questions need to be sought out from various places, for example, technicians and operators, retiring engineers, and manufacturers. Technicians and operators are the front line. They work with the equipment daily and typically know what equipment is beginning to fail. Many of the technicians and operators are retiring so this information needs to be gathered quickly. Ideally they will pass on the information before they exit, but decades of information does not get passed on without much effort. Retiring engineers are another quickly disappearing resource. These engineers have designed the system for years and have many insights. Manufacturers often keep and share data on their equipment that can be tapped into. Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) is a starting point. There are also curves showing the trend of equipment failures. The curves I saw a few years ago on the aging transformer fleet were a little disconcerting.

Think about transformers for a minute. It does not take long to learn the age of a transformer. Add to that its loading history, number of through faults seen, any off gassing, etc. This data can be used to create a document discussing the health of the transformer fleet. Graphs can be made and discussion generated. A similar process can be done with each component of the electrical system. It can even start with documenting only one data point (i.e. the age of the transformers) one year and adding additional data points each year. These documents can be reviewed by senior management and used to make decisions. Money needs to be allocated each budget cycle and these documents can assist in determining where.

This discussion needs to continue. If you work for a utility that has something like this is place, find a way to share the methodology with other utilities so they can benefit from what you learned. If you work for a utility and no one has started the conversation, then initiate it. The needs are real, and it is better to be proactive than reactive.