Training trailer is hands-on proving ground for sub techs

Point personnel in the development, rollout and use of Tri-State’s training trailer are (left to right) Rosa DelaCruz, Robert Rodela and LeRoy Martinez.

From the seeds of an idea first planted by Sid Thompson, former transmission maintenance manager who retired from Tri-State in 2010, the G&T’s mobile relay training trailer has evolved to become a valuable teaching tool offering hands-on instruction and almost endless “what if” simulation scenarios for more than 400 of the association’s substation techs, linemen and member co-op personnel since its rollout in 2011.

The goal of designing the training trailer was to replicate a Tri-State substation and control house on wheels that provided a safe but realistic setting for apprentices to test and build their on-the-job knowledge. That design responsibility largely fell on LeRoy Martinez, system protection engineer.

“Designing the trailer was a learning experience for me as well,” explained Martinez. “At the time that I was tasked with this project – about two-and-a -half years ago – I was relatively new at Tri-State and this exercise was a great introduction to the design standards that are used in Tri-State’s substations,” he said.

Rosa DelaCruz, transmission asset manager, who put together the bid package and oversaw construction of the training trailer by an outside contractor, said it has become an excellent training tool that is quite unique in the electric industry. Earlier this summer, Tri-State’s custom mobile trailer was the subject of an article highlighting training excellence in the “North American Transmission Forum,” a monthly trade publication.

Robert Rodela, field training specialist, conducts most of the training inside the trailer. Rodela explained that typically the apprentices he trains receive instruction at the trailer during four steps of their eight-step, four-year apprentice program.

“We start them off with the basic commissioning of the substation – teaching them to read and understand schematics and becoming familiar with the layout of Tri-State systems,” Rodela said.  In step two, apprentices are introduced to basic controls, relaying and metering.  Step three involves setting, testing and calibrating devices.

“As the apprentices become more experienced and get closer to the journeyman level, we schedule them for one-on-one training with our field trainers to help us measure their strengths and weaknesses and then we provide additional training where it is needed,” said Rodela.

High school students receive a first-hand look at the substation on wheels at Construction Career Days, a youth training event held in September in Adams County, Colo.

In addition to a teaching tool for Tri-State’s substation apprentices, the training trailer also is used as scheduling permits to provide instruction to member co-op “qualified responder” personnel to supplement their annual qualification requirements. This training has taken place throughout 2012 for co-op members within the transmission maintenance east territory. Instructing this program is Larry Wisecup, power operations specialist.

Under the qualified responder program, member co-op field crews are schooled in procedures that allow them to perform basic operations inside Tri-State’s substations to support the G&T’s maintenance group in troubleshooting system disturbances as well as routine switching functions.

“We see no limit to the learning opportunities that this training tool provides,” said Rodela. “Apprentices and journeymen are able to do numerous tasks and gain valuable hands-on experience without the possibility of affecting the integrity of Tri-State’s system,” he added.

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