Sometimes all it takes is one enterprising individual to make a difference.
Larry Laws ’13 knows that. When his employer, BGE, was looking for ways to diversify its relay and control team, Laws stepped into help.
He visited his old high school to meet with students and tell them about opportunities at BGE. And he also got in touch with Capitol Technology University, his college alma mater.
He knew that Capitol has a diverse student body and that it produces well-qualified graduates in the field of engineering. Working with personnel at the university, he arranged BGE booth presence at Capitol career fairs. The company eventually hired two Capitol EET graduates. Capitol students have also interned at BGE during the summer through a program initiated by Laws, who served as a subject matter expert on Capitol’s power engineering advisory board during 2014 and 2015.
Meanwhile, BGE has also set up an internship/co-op program for students from vocational high schools in Baltimore. “We’ve created a pipeline through the vocational high schools in Baltimore and through Capitol Technology University,” Laws explains.
Laws’s efforts were recently acknowledged by BEYA, which conferred on him one of its annual awards. Laws was honored as Most Promising Engineer – Industry and will officially receive the award at the upcoming BEYA STEM conference, to be held in Philadelphia in February.
“The award is for engineers who have excelled in their area either technically or organizationally,” Laws said. “Mine is mainly for what I’ve done to help bring diversity to BGE.”
Exciting work in an ever-changing field
Technical excellence is also a hallmark of Laws’s career, which has taken him from military service and stints at Bethlehem Steel and Northrup Grumman before joining BGE.
Currently, he is a manager for the systems analysis and support engineering team at the utility. If there’s a glitch in electrical transmission, his team springs into action, analyzing the grid and identifying where the fault occurred. By examining data from protective relays, the BGE engineers can narrow down the location so the repair teams have less territory to cover – and can fix the problem more quickly.
“We can determine, for instance, that it happened between Tower 155 and Tower 157, which is a distance of about a quarter mile – as opposed to looking at, say, eighty miles of transmission line. Our personnel can then go straight to that area and locate the fault. This cuts down on the outage time.”
Laws’s team also employs devices coordination configuration on the distribution lines to ensure voltage optimization to individual organizations and homes. A third aspect of his job involves ensuring compliance with federal regulations.
It’s exciting work, he says, and there’s a strong sense of camaraderie at BGE that makes for a positive work culture. Many employees are also BGE customers, a fact that enhances their commitment to ensuring quality and reliability.
Electrical engineering, in general, appeals to him because it is “always changing” and involves an element of unpredictability.
“We like to feel that we control electricity, but electricity has a mind of its own. We’re always finding new anomalies, and new ways of doing things. We learn new technologies on an almost daily basis.”
Laws: Capitol a good fit for working professionals
Laws says he’s been fascinated by electricity since childhood, when he played the famous battery-operated game Operation with his friends -- and wanted to know how it works.
He received his B.S. in electrical engineering from Capitol after transferring from another college that did not provide evening classes. As a working professional, Capitol’s flexibility made for a good fit with his lifestyle and schedule.
Capitol prides itself on hands-on learning – and, for Lawes, this is no mere figure of speech.
“Because I was an electronic technician, I was used to working with my hands, so the emphasis on labs was a perfect fit. The lab courses that Capitol offers for every single class helped me learn as much if not more than the theoretical aspects that were taught in class.”
For aspiring young electrical engineers, he has two crucial pieces of advice: narrow down to an area of specialization, and line up some internships. Companies, he says, too frequently see job candidates who have a broad electrical engineering education but no on-the-job experience.
“Know what field of electrical engineering you want to go into early,” says Laws. “The field is huge – you can work on electronics, you can work on radar, you can work for a utility, and so on. So you have to find your focus. Decide early, so you can start targeting your internships toward that area of interest.”