Grad Students Take Charge of Power Electronics Course

Achievement date: 

A new graduate course offered to power electronics students at theUniversity of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) is being taught by… graduate students!The new students-teaching-students format was pilot-tested in 2013 by theCenter for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Network (CURENT), anEngineering Research Center(ERC) co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy and headquartered at UTK.


This course allowed students to learn about practical research topics not usually presented in technical seminars or graduate courses while also receiving hands-on experience with new software and hardware. Student speakers also benefit from organizing and presenting their own lecture material. For 2013, fourteen different topics were selected based on the available expertise of students in the Center and a studentsurvey on what material they hope to learn. Topics were presented by graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and visiting scholars. Approximately 20 students attended each class and engaged in lengthy discussions with each other and with the presenter.


This year, in the pilot phase of the course only power electronics topics were covered. Future offerings will be more diverse and will leverage the other disciplines studied by Center faculty, including power systems transmission, control, and cyber security.

Each week, two students worked together to cover one to two topics related to their main projects. For example, two students designed and led a hands-on project to program and debug a digital signal processing (DSP) board. The student leader of each topic prepared presentation material, but the course format was unlike standard instructor-driven graduate courses. Questions were asked throughout the presentations, and students regularly stayed after class to continue sharing their experiences and lessons learned. Throughout the week, students further continued the discussions sparked by that week's class, meeting in the Center's power electronics labs while working on their individual projects.